Endometriosis is one of the most common causes of infertility and also the culprit behind painful menstrual cramps. Dr. Stanley Kordisch, a gynecologist with Lake Area OB/GYN Associates, explains how this health problem is detected and treated.
There is nothing fun about a woman's menstrual cycle, especially when pain is part of the experience. "Pelvic pain, painful cramps, pain on intercourse, irregular periods, longer periods," said Dr. Kordisch, "and it can be associated with other symptoms and syndromes."
Dr. Kordisch says endometriosis is to blame for the intense pain some five million women experience when the tissue lining the uterus grows on other structures in the body. "Those are the glands that are built up and slough off every month," he said, "any time these glands are found outside of the uterus, that's called endometriosis."
Growths of endometriosis are not cancerous, but they cause lots of problems, from blocking the fallopian tubes to interfering with the intestines and bladder.
Dr. Kordisch says endometriosis is more likely to affect women with a family history and irregular periods. "It tends to occur a little bit more in women who are in their 30s and 40s," he said, "specifically the ones that have never been on birth control pills or never been pregnant."
If bowel movements are painful during a period, intercourse hurts and cramps increase, it is time to see a doctor. A pelvic exam, ultrasound or minor surgery called laparoscopy will confirm the diagnosis. "Mild or moderate endometriosis we can laser, we can cauterize," said Dr. Kordisch, "the moderate to severe endometriosis needs to be removed surgically."
Pain medication can also be used in mild endometriosis, or hormone treatments like birth control pills.
Treatments depend on your age, symptoms and plans to become pregnant.
New research now shows a link between dioxin exposure and getting endometriosis. Dioxin is a toxic chemical from the making of pesticides and burning of wastes. More advanced studies are needed on this possible connection.