To call endometriosis common is almost an understatement, if you consider that 11% of women in the United States between the ages of 15 and 44 have the condition. Given this high prevalence, it certainly makes sense for women in this age group to recognize the signs of endometriosis, especially if they’re experiencing some gynecologic issues, such as pelvic pain or infertility.
We here at Women’s Clinic of the Rio Grande Valley believe that education is important when it comes to women’s health, which is why Dr. Fernando Otero and our team want to tackle endometriosis in this blog post. More to the point, we want to outline some of the more common signs of endometriosis and what you should do if you develop them.
A brief explanation of endometriosis
To kick this discussion off, let’s quickly review what occurs when you have endometriosis. Under normal circumstances, you have endometrial tissue that lines your uterus. Called the endometrial lining, this tissue thickens with each menstrual cycle to prepare to host an egg and, if it doesn't arrive, the lining sheds out in the form of your period.
With endometriosis, these tissues and cells grow outside your uterus, often attaching themselves to pelvic organs, such as your ovaries or fallopian tubes or to the outside of your uterus. Wherever these tissues grow, they react to your menstrual cycles, yet they have nowhere to shed out, so they often form problematic adhesions inside your pelvis.
Common signs of endometriosis
As you might imagine, given what can occur when you have endometriosis, there are side effects, which include:
1. Pelvic pain
This is perhaps the most prevalent symptom of endometriosis. The endometrial tissues can cause a good deal of pelvic pain, especially during your periods, because these tissues can’t shed out.
Many women with endometriosis also experience lower back pain due to the condition.
2. Pain with intercourse
Another sign of endometriosis is pain during intercourse, which can tug on adhesions inside your pelvis.
When displaced endometrial tissues drape themselves over other pelvic organs, it can cause problems with your fertility. For example, they might block your fallopian tubes or interfere with your ovaries releasing eggs.
As a result, between 30% and 50% of women with infertility also have endometriosis, and the connection isn’t likely coincidental.
4. Abnormal bleeding
Many women with endometriosis experience spotting between periods or abnormally heavy periods.
5. Digestive issues
Another red flag that comes with endometriosis are digestive issues, such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and even nausea.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms that we describe above, your next step is an easy one — come see us. We can review your symptoms and then perform a pelvic exam. We can also use advanced imaging to determine the extent of the endometriosis.
Based on what we find, we can get you started on a treatment plan, which might include hormonal solutions, as the endometrial tissues respond to your hormones. These hormonal medications are effective, but they don’t help with infertility.
If you want to get pregnant, we can look at surgery to remove some of the endometrial adhesions to provide you with an improved fertility window. Dr. Otero is an expert in minimally invasive surgery and has experience helping women with endometriosis.
As a last resort for severe endometriosis, we might recommend a hysterectomy, which can put an end to the problem, once and for all.
But, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Your first step if you suspect you have endometriosis is to contact one of our offices in McAllen or Edinburg, Texas, to set up an appointment.