When Kathryn Perrott went to her doctor for debilitating stomach pain and heavy periods, she was often brushed off as overreacting. For years, people dismissed her complaints of severe menstrual cramps were dismissed by doctors, friends, and even family. Her father would send her off to school doubled over in pain, never understanding the full extent of what she was suffering.
Despite the fact that approximately 10 percent of women worldwide suffer from endometriosis, it is widely unspoken about. Many doctors aren’t fully aware of the symptoms or treatment options available for the disease despite its prevalence.
So what is endometriosis? The disease occurs when the uterine lining begins to grow on the outside of the uterus, sometimes covering the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvic side wall. It may also cover the bladder and bowel, and in extremely rare cases has been found on the lungs and brain.
This extra lining causes severe pelvic pain and heavy or irregular menstrual bleeding. In more serious cases, it can cause scarring and irritation which may lead to infertility in women.
Heavy or excessive menstrual bleeding
Lower back pain, which may occur during any time during your cycle
Abnormal bleeding between periods
Endometriosis is classified in 4 stages: I-minimal, II-mild, III-moderate, and IV-severe. Most women who suffer with the disease fall between minimal and mild. Moderate and severe stages are characterized by cysts and severe adhesions, which can cause excruciating pain.
Before beginning treatment, a doctor or gynecologist can help you determine whether endometriosis is present. They will begin by examining your medical history and performing a pelvic exam. Your doctor may perform an MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound to assist in diagnosing. However, the only way to be certain of endometriosis is with a laparoscopy, is a minimally invasive procedure involving inserting a tube with a camera through a tiny incision in the stomach. Your doctor can use this tube to remove a sample of suspicious tissue to perform a biopsy.
Once diagnosed, treatment options vary based on the severity of endometriosis. Depending on a range of factors, your healthcare provider will determine the best course of action. Common treatment methods include:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen to ease discomfort
In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to treat endometriosis. A few different surgical approaches can be taken depending on your preference and the severity of your disease.
A laparoscopy may be performed to remove endometrial growths in somewhat less severe cases.
For more advanced endometriosis, a laparotomy may be performed. In a laparotomy, the surgeon removes as much of the misplaced tissue as possible without damaging healthy tissue.
It is widely believed by professionals that endometriosis cannot be fully prevented. This is partially due to the fact that it may be hereditary and also due to the fact that it is poorly understood. However, seeking treatment early may prevent the disease from progressing further.