There’s no way around it: If you’ve got ovaries, you’re familiar with painful periods. So you’ve probably experienced them yourself or know women who have.
But, sometimes, the so-called cramps that you or your friends are experiencing aren’t normal. They could actually be signs of endometriosis, a painful disorder in which tissue—similar to the tissue that lines your uterus—grows outside your uterus in places like your ovaries and fallopian tubes. There’s a whole host of possible symptoms including excessive menstrual cramping, heavy flow, pain during urination and bowel movements when you’re having your period, pain during intercourse, infertility, and gastrointestinal problems.
The only way to diagnose endometriosis right now is through a minimally-invasive surgery called laparoscopy. The procedure uses small incisions and a tool with a camera on it to enable your surgeon to explore your abdominal organs and biopsy anything suspicious. Other ways to check for evidence of the condition include a pelvic exam, ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI.
Once endometriosis is diagnosed, there is a wide range of options for treating it. The method you and your care team choose will be determined by the severity of your problem and whether you want to become pregnant. Doctors usually recommend starting with more conservative methods, like pain medication, and opting for surgery only if they fail.
Treatments for endometriosis
Treatment options include:
Sometimes an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen, can relieve painful menstrual cramping.
Supplemental hormones can sometimes relieve the pain of endometriosis. This type of medication can slow the growth of unwanted tissue, decreasing or eliminating pain. Options include birth control pills, vaginal rings, and medication that reduces the amount of estrogen in your body or blocks the production of ovarian-stimulating hormones.
When non-surgical methods are unsuccessful in treating endometriosis, physicians sometimes recommend surgery. Whatever you and your doctor choose will depend on your individual health circumstances and whether you want to become pregnant.
- The conservative choice
If you’re hoping to become pregnant, minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery can remove the endometriosis tissue while still preserving your uterus and ovaries. This option is also used for people who suffer from severe pain but prefer not to have a hysterectomy.
- Hysterectomy (with the removal of the ovaries)
While this approach can effectively treat endometriosis, physicians tend to recommend trying more conservative treatments before resorting to hysterectomy. One reason is that removing the ovaries will cause menopause, which carries a number of health risks including cardiovascular disease. Removing the uterus can also affect your long-term health. If you suffer from painful periods, it doesn’t automatically mean you have endometriosis. The good news is that no matter what’s causing your discomfort, our women’s care team can make recommendations to help. You can contact us about your menstrual cycle or any other health care question you have. Call us at 317-468-6174. We’re ready to listen to you!