Endometriosis, a condition that occurs when the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus, affects about 10% of women of reproductive age in the United States. Besides being one of the main causes of chronic pelvic pain for women in their 30s and 40s, endometriosis can also interfere with fertility. From his office in Gaithersburg, Maryland, board-certified gynecologist Dr. Steve Yu provides comprehensive treatment for women with endometriosis. To learn more, call or book your appointment online today.
Endometriosis is a common gynecological problem that happens when the membrane that normally lines the inside of your uterus, called endometrium, grows outside of the organ.
The disorder can cause endometrium to form on your ovaries, fallopian tubes, the outer surface of your uterus, or the tissues that line your pelvis. Displaced endometrium tissues are commonly known as implants.
Even when it occurs outside the uterus, endometrium still acts as it would normally: It thickens, breaks down, and bleeds through every menstrual cycle.
Because endometrium implants have no way to exit your body, they often lead to the formation of scar tissue, ovarian cysts, and other adhesions. Women with endometriosis may experience:
In addition to causing ongoing pelvic pain that can be incapacitating and hard to manage, endometriosis can lead to significant fertility problems. That’s because the condition causes chronic inflammation that can damage eggs and interfere with sperm mobility.
As many as half of all women with endometriosis have difficulty becoming pregnant, and approximately 40% of women who have been diagnosed with infertility have endometriosis.
Because the condition usually worsens over time, Dr. Yu often advises women with mild to moderate endometriosis to have children sooner rather than later.
Women with endometriosis also have a slightly higher than average risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Although endometriosis can’t be cured, it can be managed effectively with the right approach. If your symptoms are limited to mild pelvic pain, over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, may be all you need to find complete relief.
Taking hormonal birth control can help keep the condition from worsening, provided you aren’t trying to become pregnant. Extended cycle or continuous cycle hormonal birth control, which are both available as a pill or an injection, can slow the growth of endometrial tissues and prevent new adhesions from forming. They also help reduce or eliminate pelvic pain and stop irregular uterine bleeding.
For more severe cases, surgically removing displaced endometrial tissues may be the only viable option for pain relief and improved fertility. Because the problem usually redevelops over time, using hormonal medications after surgery can help delay its return.
Although endometriosis is a leading cause of persistent pelvic pain, it’s not the only possible cause. Uterine fibroids, also called leiomyomas, are noncancerous growths that appear on the uterine wall. They can also cause ongoing pelvic pain and pressure.
Uterine fibroids usually develop during childbearing years and become increasingly common in women who are in their 40s and 50s. Fibroids can be so small that they’re virtually imperceptible, or they can be large, bulky masses that distend the uterus.
Ultrasound imaging can help Dr. Yu determine if there are any troublesome masses or cysts on your uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, or elsewhere in your pelvic region.
If you’ve been experiencing pelvic pain of any kind, call Dr. Yu’s office today, or book an appointment online anytime.