More than a million women in the United States have endometriosis, but not everyone is properly diagnosed and treated. Keep reading to learn more about this painful and misunderstood condition and how your doctor can help.
When Should I Talk to My Doctor About Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain?
Endometriosis is a common gynecologic condition that can cause severe pelvic pain, extremely painful periods, pain during intercourse, and fertility issues. When you have endometriosis (or “endo”), a tissue, called endometrium, starts growing outside your uterus and can attach to your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other organs. Over time, the growths can create scar tissue and encourage the development of ovarian cysts.
- You should talk to your doctor about endometriosis if you are experiencing the following symptoms:
- Very heavy menstrual bleeding
- Low back and stomach pain during your period
- Pelvic pain before and during your period or during sex
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Constipation or diarrhea
Up to 50% of women who struggle with infertility have endometriosis. You should also talk to your family members about endometriosis and find out if they’ve been diagnosed, since there is a genetic component to the condition.
Endometriosis can be a debilitating and emotionally difficult condition, and many women don’t get the care they deserve. It’s easy to minimize your symptoms or brush them off as “bad cramps.” And it can take a long time to diagnose endometriosis. According to the Endometriosis Foundation of America, it takes an average of ten years to diagnose the condition—in part because women don’t want to talk about their symptoms.
If you’re struggling with severe pelvic pain, long and heavy menstrual cycles, or are having difficulties getting pregnant, it’s time to talk to your doctor. Make sure you clearly explain your symptoms and concerns. Your primary care physician or gynecologist can help you understand your condition, prescribe treatment, and refer you the right specialists.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Endometriosis?
Years ago, endometriosis was only diagnosed by laparotomy, a serious surgery where doctors cut a several-inch-long incision and removed tissue from your uterus. Thankfully, there are now minimally-invasive options that don’t require significant recovery time. Doctors frequently use 3D ultrasound technology and laparoscopy, a surgery that involves tiny incisions and minimal downtime, to diagnose endometriosis today.
In other words, don’t delay talking to your doctors because you’re afraid of surgery.
Significant Advances in Endometriosis Treatment Can Improve Your Quality of Life
While there isn’t a cure for endometriosis, doctors and researchers are finding new ways to treat and control its symptoms. With cutting-edge hormonal treatment, minimally-invasive surgeries that remove endometrial growth, and targeted pain medications, many women can improve their symptoms, have children, and avoid more invasive surgeries. For some women, acupuncture and dietary changes also seem to help with their endometriosis symptoms.
And new treatment options are being developed all the time. For example, the UCSF Endometriosis Center is part of UCSF Health’s award-winning National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health. The center provides holistic, patient-centered care for patients with endometriosis and similar conditions and participates in cutting-edge clinical research that aims to improve our understanding of the disease and our treatment methods. And when patients require surgery, the Center’s expert surgeons may offer them laparoscopic or robotic options that only require a 5- to 8-centimeter incision—even for a hysterectomy.
If you are a Canopy Health member, even if your primary care physician is not affiliated with UCSF Health, you can receive a referral to the Endometriosis Center. All of our members benefit from our remarkable Alliance Referral Program, which lets them get the care they need from any specialist within our alliance. This means that you can get treatment with the right specialist for your needs, depending on the severity of your condition, your location, and personal needs.
About endometriosis (n.d.). UCSF Endometriosis Center. Retrieved from http://endometriosis.ucsf.edu/about-endometriosis
Office on Women’s Health (2019, January 30). Endometriosis. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/endometriosis
What Is endometriosis? Causes, symptoms and treatments (n.d.). Endometriosis Foundation of America. Retrieved from https://www.endofound.org/endometriosis