Endometriosis: The symptoms to watch and how to treat it

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Dr. Frances Bechek with the Jordan Valley Medical Center joined us to talk about endometriosis, the symptoms and your treatment options.

Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus (endometrium) grows outside of the uterus. In most cases, endometriosis is a painful medical problem that involves the ovaries, bowel, or tissue lining the pelvis. In rare cases, endometrial tissue can grow beyond the pelvic region.

If a woman has endometriosis, the displaced endometrial tissue functions as it normally would by thickening, breaking down, and bleeding with every menstrual cycle. Since the endometrial tissue has no way to exit the body, it becomes trapped and can irritate the surrounding tissue. Endometriosis often causes pain, sometimes very severe, during a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Symptoms of Endometriosis

The primary symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain, most often associated with the menstrual cycle. Although most women experience cramping during their period, the pain associated with endometriosis is typically described as much worse.

  • Painful periods
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Pain with bowel movements or urination
  • Excessive bleeding during periods
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Infertility

Treatment for Endometriosis

The type of treatment for endometriosis depends on the severity of the symptoms and whether or not a woman hopes to become pregnant.

  • Pain Medications: A doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers to help ease the pain. However, if OTC pain relievers do not relieve the pain, other options may be suggested.
  • Hormone Therapy: Supplemental hormones may help reduce or eliminate the pain. During the menstrual cycle, hormone levels increase and decrease, causing the endometrial tissue to thicken, break down, and bleed. Hormone therapy may slow the growth of this tissue.
  • Conservative Surgery: If a woman hopes to get pregnant, surgery to remove as much endometrial tissue as possible while preserving the uterus and ovaries may be suggested.
  • Total Hysterectomy: This type of surgery is used in only the most extreme cases of endometriosis. A surgeon will remove the uterus, cervix, and both ovaries. However, a woman would not be able to get pregnant after this surgery, so it is often considered the last resort.