More than 6 million American women suffer from endometriosis, a chronic condition where the uterine lining grows abnormally — either outside of the uterus or on other organs or muscles in the abdomen.
The illness can cause extremely painful menstrual cramps, along with pain in the abdomen and during intercourse, bowel movements and urination. Endometriosis is also marked by heavy menstrual periods, bleeding or spotting between cycles as well as gastrointestinal issues including diarrhea, constipation and nausea.
Although any woman can develop endometriosis, those at greater risk are Caucasian women, women giving birth for the first time after age 30, women with an abnormal uterus and women with a first-degree relative with the condition.
How would a woman know whether menstrual pain is simply normal cramping or something more serious like endometriosis?
Typically in patients, the primary reasons to seek treatment or evaluation for this condition would be painful, debilitating periods; progressively worsening pelvic pain with or without her periods; irregular periods; or infertility issues.
Can endometriosis affect a woman's fertility?
This condition, depending on its severity, can have a negative impact on fertility, especially if it causes structural changes to the reproductive organs. Fortunately, consultation with a reproductive endocrinologist often can find solutions around most obstacles that can result from being diagnosed with endometriosis.
How is endometriosis treated?
In severe cases, surgery can help when in the care of a surgeon experienced in dealing with difficult cases of endometriosis. Often times, excision of endometriotic implants — or patches — may be required for pain relief and to preserve fertility. Laparoscopy (surgery using a thin, lighted tube through a small incision) and robotic-assisted surgery can give the surgeon better visualization, and allow for more delicate and precise movements during surgery to reduce the risk of accidental injury to other nearby pelvic organs.
Sharp also offers robotic-assisted surgery for the removal of uterine fibroids.
Dr. Hsiao explains that mild cases of endometriosis might be treated with hormonal birth control to regulate periods and reduce bleeding and pain. He recommends that you speak with your doctor about severe pain experienced during menstrual cycles, and any concerns you may have about endometriosis and how it can affect fertility.