Despite causing pain and other symptoms in around 10% of women during their reproductive years, endometriosis is still relatively misunderstood by the general public. There’s also a lot of misinformation that can cause confusion and fear about your condition.
We aim to answer your questions here in an easy-to-understand guide to endometriosis.
What is endometriosis?
Your endometrium is the lining that develops on the inside of your uterus every month. Endometriosis is a condition that allows the endometrium to grow on organs and tissue outside of your uterus.
In most cases, endometriosis affects other reproductive and pelvic organs, including:
- Fallopian tubes
- The outside of the uterus
- Vaginal walls
While less common, endometriosis can form anywhere in your body including your diaphragm, lungs, and brain.
Who gets endometriosis?
While endometriosis is usually diagnosed in women in their 20s and 30s, any woman who has started having menstrual periods, including adolescents, can develop endometriosis. Even in menopause women can have symptoms associated with endometriosis.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
Pain is the hallmark sign of endometriosis. Endometriosis can cause:
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- Severe menstrual cramping
- Pelvic pain throughout the month
- Low back pain
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Painful bowel movements
- Painful urination
- Fertility problems
In addition to pain, you might also have irregular bowel movements such as constipation or diarrhea. You might also experience abdominal bloating or feel like you have a full feeling in your pelvic region.
It’s also possible to have endometriosis but not experience any symptoms.
What causes endometriosis?
Medical researchers and physicians haven’t identified a specific cause of endometriosis — yet. We do know that if your mother or sister has endometriosis, you have a higher risk of developing the condition, too. It could be due to an immunologic dysfunction or alterations in your inflammatory process.
We also know that endometriosis isn’t infectious, and it’s not a sexually transmitted disease.
Diagnosis & treatment
How is endometriosis diagnosed?
Here at Maiden Lane Medical, we offer exploratory laparoscopy to confirm an endometriosis diagnosis. Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that allows us to examine your reproductive and pelvic organs without having to make a large incision in your body.
We use a surgical instrument called a laparoscope, which is a thin tube with a light and camera on its tip. During the procedure, we insert the device through a small incision in your abdomen, and it sends pictures from inside your body to a video monitor in the treatment room. Typically, when we perform this surgery, we are not just diagnosing endometriosis, we are treating it by removing 100% of the disease from the root. We do not burn it or laser it.
How is endometriosis treated?
While you can take hormonal medications and pain medication to manage your symptoms, we focus on addressing the condition causing your pain — The reason we approach it this way is because we know that 100% of the time once most medical therapies are stopped, the pain associated with endometriosis returns. The problem is that most medical therapies including oral contraceptives, lupron, and Orlissa do not actually treat endometriosis. Instead, they suppress the pain while the endometriosis is worsening in the background (sort of like a band-aid). We perform radical resections to remove endometrial tissue.
What should I expect from a radical resection?
The term radical resection might sound scary, but it is in most cases straight forward surgical procedure that allows us to remove the endometriosis causing your pain, and if present, scar tissue caused by endometriosis.
The best part about a radical resection is that we leave your reproductive organs intact, which preserves your fertility.
How does endometriosis affect fertility?
Between 30-40% of women with endometriosis also experience fertility issues. When infertility accompanies endometriosis, it’s usually because the endometriosis or related scar tissue interferes with the release of viable eggs or blocks the fallopian tubes, preventing the egg from reaching your uterus and joining with a sperm. It also causes inflammation which leads to eggs getting older faster in women with endometriosis versus those who do not have endometriosis.
Can I still get pregnant if I have endometriosis?
In many cases, you can get pregnant if you have endometriosis — you might just need a little help. If you have endometriosis and want to have a baby, talk to us about your options.
Does my diet affect endometriosis symptoms?
There isn’t a direct correlation between your diet and endometriosis. However, we encourage you to make healthy lifestyle choices. For example, you should limit or avoid foods that trigger inflammation and influence hormone production like:
- Trans fats
- Red meat
Some studies show that following a primarily plant-based diet can reduce inflammation and enhance your overall health. You should make sure to consume plenty of:
- Vegetables and fruits
- Nuts and seeds
- Beans and legumes
- Iron-rich foods like spinach, broccoli, and fortified grains
- Essential fatty acid-rich food like salmon, sardines, and trout
- Antioxidant-rich foods like berries, beets, oranges, and other colorful fruits
You might find that keeping a food diary can help you identify foods that trigger uncomfortable bloating or other symptoms.
Should I exercise if I have endometriosis?
Yes! Exercise provides many benefits, including weight management, increasing energy, and releasing endorphins — the feel-good hormones. You should aim for 30-60 minutes of moderate exercise, like swimming, walking, or cycling every day.
Exercise also improves your circulation, which delivers essential nutrients and oxygen to your organs and body systems. Regular exercise also helps regulate estrogen production, which might also help reduce your endometriosis symptoms.
How should I deal with painful sex?
Sex is an essential part of maintaining intimacy in a romantic relationship, and painful intercourse can put a damper on your sex life. We provide customized advice, but you could also try taking a pain reliever about an hour before you plan to have sex. You and your partner can also try different positions and rhythms to find what is most comfortable and pleasurable.
Living with endometriosis can be tough. Our team here at Maiden Lane Medical can help. Not only do we aim to treat the root cause of your pain, but we provide personalized advice on managing your symptoms and maintaining a high quality of life. If you’re concerned about endometriosis, give us a call or make an appointment online today.