Most women experience a certain level of discomfort during menstrual periods. For women with endometriosis, this pain can be debilitating, interfering with tasks like going to work and school. Endometriosis is a disease that affects at least 6.3 million women in the United States, according to the Endometriosis Foundation. It occurs when endometrium, a tissue that normally occurs within the uterus, grows outside the uterus, such as on the fallopian tubes and in the pelvic cavity. Endometriosis has no cure, but can be treated to decrease symptoms.

What does endometriosis feel like?
Endometriosis may be experienced as severe menstrual cramps and other symptoms during menstruation, such as pain during bowel movements and severe lower back pain. It can also be experienced as pain during sex or after sex, as intestinal cramping or as bloating and nausea. Sometimes the symptoms are present all the time, instead of just when a woman has her period. Because of this, endometriosis can be a frustrating condition that affects daily life. Endometriosis may also interfere with a woman’s ability to get pregnant.

What causes endometriosis?
While genetics may be a factor, there is no known cause of endometriosis. According to womenshealth.gov, a woman may be more likely to get endometriosis if a close relative has had it, if she has never had children, if she has unusually long menstrual periods and if she has had a pelvic infection. Healthy habits like exercise and avoiding alcohol can help reduce the risk of endometriosis, but it’s important to understand that it’s a very common condition in women.

How is endometriosis diagnosed?
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to pinpoint endometriosis as the cause of pelvic pain and related symptoms. If endometriosis has caused large cysts or scarring around the uterus, doctors can feel those areas during a pelvic exam. An ultrasound or MRI may also be used to identify cysts and scarring. To understand the extent of endometriosis, doctors perform laparoscopy, a minor surgery that involves using small, precise tools and a tiny camera to explore the abdominal cavity. With a firm diagnosis, it’s possible to develop the best treatment plan possible to alleviate symptoms.

North Hills Hospital can treat certain cases of endometriosis with minimally invasive surgical procedures. These surgeries result in a faster recovery period, a lower chance of infection, less pain and less scarring. If you would like a physician referral to discuss or assess your gynecologic condition, please call 1-855-5NHILLS.

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