What It’s Like Living with Endometriosis

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One of the most common gynecological conditions we treat is endometriosis, or “endo.” Endo is a condition that causes endometrial cells from the uterine lining to grow outside the uterus. It’s most often found in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the outer surface of the uterus, and in the tissues that hold the uterus in place. It can cause serious internal scarring, permanent pain, and even infertility if left untreated.   

Endometriosis affects approximately 1 in 10 women of reproductive age in the United States. It is especially common in women who are in their 30s and 40s. Women who have never had children are also at risk for developing endo. 

What Are the Symptoms of Endo? 

If you experience the following, you are more likely to develop endometriosis: 

  • Periods that last more than 7 days 
  • Short menstrual cycles (27 days or less) 
  • A family member, such as a mother, sister, or aunt, with endometriosis: You are 7 to 10 times more likely to have endometriosis if there is a history of the condition in your family.  

Still, many women are diagnosed with endo with no risk factors at all.   

While most women experience typical premenstrual symptoms like bloating, moodiness, and cramps, women with endometriosis experience more debilitating symptoms, such as: 

Not all women with endometriosis experience these symptoms. In fact, some women with endo do not have any symptoms at all, which is one of the reasons why it can often go undiagnosed.  

Less Common Symptoms of Endo 

Other symptoms and conditions have been associated with endometriosis:  

  • Fatigue  
  • Urinary or bowel disorders, such as constipation, diarrhea, or nausea 
  • Migraines 
  • Bleeding or spotting between cycles 
  • Nerve or joint pain  
  • Painful, severe abdominal bloating that is sometimes referred to as “endo belly”  

“Endo belly,” or endometriosis-related abdominal bloating, may result from gastrointestinal issues related to endometriosis. It can also be caused by inflammation, cysts, and fibroids. It typically occurs before or during your period, and it can last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. 

What to Do If You Think You Have Endometriosis  

Many women with endometriosis remain undiagnosed. Some physicians downplay their symptoms and do not aggressively pursue a diagnosis for women with pain: Pain may be attributed to a “hysterical” personality or to emotional causes.  

Menstrual cramps are common, and most women with cramps do not need to invasive testing to search for an underlying cause. Most women can successfully use OTC pain medications like ibuprofen or be managed with birth control pills. In the following circumstances, however, your evaluation should go further:    

  • If you frequently miss work or social events because of period cramps 
  • If your cramps are not relieved by over-the-counter medications  
  • If you’re on birth control pills and you still have debilitating cramps 

If you think you may have endometriosis, you should schedule an appointment with your gynecologist to get an evaluation, especially if you struggle with severe, chronic pain or experience cramps that have persisted for over 6 months. If you use over-the-counter pain relievers (ibuprofen or naproxen) and/or birth control pills but still miss work, school, or social activities because of pain, you should make an endo evaluation appointment.  

What You Can Expect During an Endo Evaluation  

During an endometriosis evaluation, your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and health history. They may also run a series of tests, such as a pelvic exam, an ultrasound, and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These tests can help eliminate other causes for your symptoms, but the only accurate way to diagnose endometriosis is through a minimally invasive outpatient procedure called diagnostic laparoscopy.  

During a diagnostic laparoscopy, a camera attached to a narrow telescope is used to look inside your abdomen and pelvis under anesthesia, usually through a small incision in your navel. If endometriosis is discovered during laparoscopy, it can often be removed or destroyed at the time of surgery. 

Because endometriosis tends to be chronic, you will require ongoing treatment to prevent or treat recurrences. Your doctor can help you develop a long-term treatment plan, which typically includes hormonal birth control that suppresses endometriosis. Untreated endo can impair fertility, so it’s important to make a definitive diagnosis if there is suspicion of endometriosis.  

We’re Here to Help 

If you think you may be suffering from endometriosis, contact us today. Our gynecologists and OBGYNs are some of the top gynecologists in Queens and Long Island, and they can help you get prompt treatment and relief. 

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