Celebrities are calling attention to endometriosis. Most recently, Amy Schumer shared she had her uterus and appendix removed due to the painful disorder. And the more stars like Chrissy Teigen, Mandy Moore, Halsey, Padma Lakshmi and Lena Dunham open up about their struggles, the more other women know they are not alone.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue typically found in the uterus grows outside of it, most commonly within the pelvis; in rare cases, this tissue can be found in other parts of the body as well.
“These endometrial glands are then stimulated each month with a person’s period, which causes an inflammatory reaction, potential scarring, and different degrees of pain, bleeding, bloating and other symptoms,” explained Staci Tanouye, MD, an OB/GYN with Baptist Health and Women’s Care Florida.
How can it be treated?
Symptoms can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers, various forms of hormonal birth control or medications that suppress hormones, according to Dr. Tanouye.
“While taking medications can control symptoms such as painful or heavy periods, the only way to fully treat or get rid of endometriosis is to surgically remove it.”
How do you know whether you have it?
“We can often suspect a diagnosis of endometriosis by a thorough personal history and physical exam revealing severely painful and heavy periods, bloating, painful bowel movements, pain during sex or persistent pelvic pain that is not controlled with over-the-counter remedies,” Dr. Tanouye said. “The only way to confirm endometriosis is with a laparoscopic [minimally-invasive involving tiny incisions] surgery.”
Can it be prevented?
“There is no known way to prevent endometriosis. The exact causes and mechanisms of why it happens are not well understood,” said Dr. Tanouye. “There are several different theories ranging from complex interactions of stem cells, embryology [how organs and body parts form once an egg is fertilized], reverse menstruation [backflow of the uterine lining through the fallopian tubes] and genetics, to changes in the lymphatic and the immune systems.”
Can it lead to infertility?
People with endometriosis may have a higher rate of infertility or difficulty getting pregnant.
Will pregnancy be difficult?
“Due to the natural hormonal state of pregnancy, people with endometriosis often do quite well during pregnancy and symptoms can subside,” said Dr. Tanouye. “However, there is some evidence for a slightly increased risk of miscarriage, preterm birth and cesarean section.”
The good news: Endometriosis is finally getting more exposure and acknowledgment, which helps patients advocate for themselves and speeds up the process of diagnosis and treatment, Dr. Tanouye explained.
If you’re concerned about painful periods, Baptist Health can help you find a primary care physician or OB/GYN. To find the right doctor for you, call 904.202.4YOU.