March is National Endometriosis Awareness Month
The month of March marks National Endometriosis Awareness Month and provides a great opportunity to raise awareness about a disorder that affects 1 out of 10 women during their reproductive years (ages 15 to 49) and an estimated 176 million women worldwide. In the United States alone, over 5 million women suffer from endometriosis and is the most common amongst women in their 30s and 40s. Here we take a closer look at this chronic disorder and one of the biggest contributors to infertility today.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a disorder in which the endometrium, the tissue that lines the uterus, grows outside of the uterus. When a woman suffers from endometriosis, it is most commonly found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, ligaments that support the uterus, the area between the vagina and the rectum, the outer surface of the uterus, and the lining of the pelvic cavity. Other less common sites for endometrial growth include the bladder, bowel, vagina, cervix, vulva, in abdominal scars.
Common Symptoms of Endometriosis Include:
- Pain before, during, or after menstrual periods
- Painful bowel movements and urination during periods
- Pain during or after sex
- Lower back, abdominal, or pelvic pain
- Frequent yeast infections
- Gastrointestinal upsets, i.e. diarrhea, constipation, nausea
Causes, Diagnosis, & Treatment
While there is no known cause for endometriosis, there are several factors that may be associated with the disorder such as genetics, starting menstruation at a young age, and exposure to environmental toxins like the chemical dioxin (TCCD). Another theory believed to cause endometriosis is retrograde menstruation in which during menstruation, the menstrual tissue backs up through the fallopian, implants in the uterus, and grows.
Some women with endometriosis experience frequent and severe pain, an obvious indication that there is a problem. On the other hand, some women have little to no symptoms and learn they have the disorder while trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant. Endometriosis is one of the top three conditions associated with female infertility and about 30 to 40 percent of women with the condition cannot get pregnant on their own.
Diagnosis is typically considered uncertain until proven by a laparoscopy, a minor surgical procedure done under anesthesia that shows the size and location of the endometriosis. It is one of the most common treatments to remove endometrial tissue, especially for women trying to conceive. During this procedure, a surgeon will insert a camera through a small incision near the navel. Should any endometriosis be present, the surgeon will attempt to remove all endometrial tissue through another small incision. If the laparoscopy proves to be ineffective, further treatment options may need to be considered such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) or other assisted reproductive technologies (ART).
Daniel R. Christie, M.D., is author of this blog and subspecialty certified in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. He is based out of the IVF Miami office and highly skilled in the areas of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), in vitro fertilization (IVF), and hormone replacement therapy (HRT). To schedule a consultation with Dr. Christie, please request an appointment at one of our IVF Florida locations.