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Endometriosis at UPMC in Central Pa.

Pelvic pain and menstrual irregularities are often part of a woman’s life. Endometriosis affects more than 10 million women in the United States. It’s one of the most common gynecological conditions that affect 30-40% of patients with infertility and 70-80% of women with pelvic pain. Endometriosis affects women of all races and ethnic backgrounds, many suffer in silence. Our goal is to strive to care for all women suffering from endometriosis and improve their quality of life.

What Is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a condition where cells, like those from the lining of the uterus, start growing on other organs. Endometriosis can cause very painful menses, lower back and abdominal pain, excessive bleeding, pain between periods, pain with intercourse, and result in infertility if not treated. The condition can develop during puberty or several years after the onset of menstruation or even after having children. It affects all races and economic classes.

There is no one clear cause, but genetics may be involved. If your mother or other first degree relative had endometriosis, you are six times more likely to have the disease. The abnormal cell growth is usually found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the ligaments supporting the uterus, and tissues lining the pelvis. Other locations for endometriosis include:

  • Vagina
  • Intestines
  • Rectum
  • Cervix
  • Bladder
  • Vulva
  • Abdominal surgery scars

Hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle affect the endometriosis tissue, causing the area to become inflamed and painful. While some may assume this is normal, it is not. Too often, women are not taken seriously and often dismissed as exaggeratory or having a low threshold for pain. It is important for lay people and the medical community to know that endometriosis is more than cramps. It interferes with a woman’s daily life. In fact, 38% experience a loss of productivity at work or school than those without the disease.

Am I At Risk For Endometriosis?

Medical professionals attribute endometriosis to many possible causes, but the classical theory is that is starts from retrograde menstruation where the blood flows back into the fallopian tubes and pelvic cavity instead out of the body. Risk factors for having endometriosis include:

  • First birth after age 30
  • Starting your period at an early age
  • Going into menopause at an older age
  • Short menstrual cycles — less than 27 days between each
  • Heavy menstrual periods that last longer than seven days
  • Having higher levels of estrogen in your body or a greater lifetime exposure to estrogen your body produces
  • Low body mass index (BMI)
  • One or more relatives with endometriosis
  • Reproductive tract abnormalities
  • Continued pain despite birth control pills for 6 months

Aside from pain and frustration, around one-third to one-half of women diagnosed also have difficulty getting pregnant.

How Is Endometriosis Diagnosed?

Sharing your symptoms with your provider is the first step toward diagnosing your condition. At that time, a woman’s primary care or ob-gyn provider will conduct pelvic exam, ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI scan. A normal test does not mean you don’t have endometriosis and doesn’t mean the pain isn’t real. Sometimes you need surgery to determine if endometriosis is present, but you don’t need surgery before you can begin treatment to relieve your pain.

What Are My Treatment options For endometriosis?

 Women may benefit from any number of treatment options. Your doctor may offer standard treatment options to decrease the amount of endometriosis present that include:

Although there is no cure for endometriosis, there is hope for an improved quality of life with treatment options and supportive care are available to manage symptoms. Once a woman reaches menopause, her symptoms may disappear. Until that time, however, women need to be their own advocate in finding relief – first by finding a provider who understands the disease.

Talk to your doctor about recommended lifestyle changes, medications, therapies, and possible surgical procedures depending upon your individual stage and severity of pain.

For more information about endometriosis or to schedule an appointment with one of our UPMC experts, visit UPMC in Central Pa.

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