You’re experiencing symptoms that might be related to your reproductive health, such as pelvic pain. To help you figure out what might be wrong, Dr. Fernando Otero and the obstetrics team here at the Women's Clinic of the Rio Grande Valley decided to focus on endometriosis in this month’s blog post.
This common gynecologic condition — it may affect about 11% of women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States — can lead to a wide range of symptoms, five of which we review here.
Before we take a look at the common signs of endometriosis, we want to briefly explain the condition. With endometriosis, the cells that normally line the inside of your uterus end up growing outside your uterus, often attaching themselves to nearby structures, such as your:
- Fallopian tubes
- Uterus exterior
- Uterus support tissues
- Lower digestive tract
As you go through your menstrual cycles, this tissue thickens each month, but when it’s time to shed out, it has nowhere to go. As a result, scar tissue can develop, and these adhesions can attach themselves to pelvic structures, creating a wide range of problems. As well, the displaced tissue can cause inflammation inside your pelvis.
The primary symptoms of endometriosis
When you have symptomatic endometriosis, you can experience a number of side effects, including:
1. Pelvic pain
Far and away, the primary complaint with endometriosis is pelvic pain. This pain typically worsens with your period or with certain activities, such as intercourse. You can also experience lower back or abdominal pain.
The primary drivers of this pain are inflammation and the adhesions that pull on tissues and organs inside your pelvis.
2. Heavy periods
Another potential symptom of endometriosis is heavy flow or spotting in between periods. When these endometrial tissues thicken with your menstrual cycles, they can release blood, creating heavier periods.
If endometrial adhesions attach themselves to your fallopian tubes or ovaries, you may experience difficulties getting pregnant. In fact, 30-40% of women with endometriosis encounter problems with fertility.
This symptom of endometriosis is often overlooked, but it’s an important one. When you have inflammation in your pelvis, it means your immune system is working hard, which can lead to fatigue.
5. Gastrointestinal upset
Another symptom of endometriosis comes in the form of gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea, diarrhea, or constipation.
Diagnosing and treating endometriosis
If any of the above symptoms sound familiar, it’s a good idea to come see us for expert diagnosis and treatment. After reviewing your symptoms and using advanced imaging, such as ultrasound, we can determine whether endometriosis is to blame for your symptoms.
If you do have endometriosis, there are treatment options, but they depend upon your goals. For example, if you’re not looking to have children, we can use hormonal medications to control your endometriosis.
If you do want to get pregnant, our own Dr. Otero is an expert in minimally invasive gynecologic procedures in which he removes the problematic endometrial adhesions.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, the diagnosis is the first step. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms we outline above, please make an appointment at one of our offices in McAllen or Edinburg, Texas, by clicking here.