About 10% of women in the United States experience endometriosis in their reproductive years. This is a condition where tissue similar to the uterine lining grows outside the uterus. Associated with pain and fatigue, endometriosis can take a serious toll on your well-being when it goes undiagnosed. The women’s care professionals at Suburban OB/GYN in St. Louis, Missouri, can diagnose and treat endometriosis. Call or click for an appointment today.
When tissue that’s similar to the lining of the uterus — called the endometrium — grows in places other than the uterus, it creates a chronic inflammatory condition that may cause scar tissue. Typically found on other structures and organs of the pelvis, the tissue growth of endometriosis can cause painful periods and ovulation, pain during and after sex, general chronic pain in the pelvis, and heavy menstrual flows. It can also interfere with your attempts to get pregnant.
The effects of endometriosis vary widely among women and there’s no connection between the severity of pain and the progression of the condition. Those with advanced cases of endometriosis may have comparatively mild pain. Perhaps because of this, the symptoms of endometriosis are often mistaken for other conditions. Irritable bowel syndrome is one example.
Precise causes for the condition aren’t known. There seems to be a genetic connection, so if you have family members with endometriosis, your chances of developing it are greater. Some possible causes include:
If the pain of endometriosis can’t be controlled with over-the-counter medication, hormone therapy is typically the next step. Balancing wide swings in hormone levels through the month often reduces the symptoms of endometriosis. Continuous cycle hormonal contraceptives often produce shorter and lighter menstrual flows, which in turn reduces the severity of endometriosis pain. Progestin-only contraceptives sometimes stop menstrual periods completely and interrupt the growth of endometrial tissue.
Laparoscopic surgical procedures are the most common surgery for the removal of endometrial cells and scar tissue. It may offer relief from serious pain, but it’s possible that endometriosis will recur at a later time. A hysterectomy is typically considered a last resort, and it, too, may not completely stop endometriosis.