What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a common and under-diagnosed gynecological condition in women, affecting an estimated 2 to 10 percent of American women between the ages of 25 and 40.

Endometriosis is derived from the word “endometrium,” which is the tissue that lines the uterus. Individuals with endometriosis have endometrial-type tissue outside of the uterus.

This is a painful disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus grows outside of your uterus. This generally involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the tissue lining your pelvis. In some rare cases, endometrial-like tissue may be found beyond the area where pelvic organs are located.

With endometriosis, the endometrial-like tissue mimics endometrial tissue and thickens, breaks down, and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. However, problems occur because the tissue has no way to exit the body and becomes trapped.This leads to inflammation, swelling, and scarring of the normal tissue surrounding the endometriosis implants. The irritated surrounding tissue can form bands of fibrous tissue that can cause pelvic tissues and organs to stick to each other. When endometriosis involves the ovaries, cysts called endometriomas may form.

Endometriosis can cause varying levels of pain, especially during menstrual periods.

Diagnosing Endometriosis

To evaluate your symptoms, Dr. Poppen will discuss your medical history and perform a complete pelvic exam. Following the evaluation, an ultrasound is typically ordered to look for other causes of your symptoms. If no other identifiable cause can be found, the next step is laparoscopic evaluation and treatment. Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure in which a laparoscope, a thin tube with a camera at the end, is inserted into the abdomen through a small incision. One or two additional small incisions are made to allow surgical instruments to be placed in the abdomen. Laparoscopy is used to determine the location, extent and size of the disease. All visible endometriosis will be removed at that time, if possible.

Following the laparoscopy, the tissue is sent to pathology for evaluation and a diagnosis is made.

Treating endometriosis

Treatment varies based on the severity of an individual’s endometriosis. At Advanced Gynecology, we’ll always consider the extent of your pain and your personal preferences when discussing treatments. If your symptoms are mild, pain medication may be all that is necessary to manage your symptoms.

  • Laparoscopy (also used to help diagnose endometriosis): A surgical procedure in which a laparoscope, a thin tube with a lens and a light, is inserted into an incision in the abdominal wall; using the laparoscope to see into the pelvic area, the doctor can remove the endometrial growths in most circumstances.

Commonly Ask Questions

Women with endometriosis are more likely to have infertility or difficulty getting pregnant.

Women experience symptoms of endometriosis differently, with severity varying from extremely painful to no symptoms at all. The most common symptoms of endometriosis include:

  • Excessive menstrual cramps
  • Abnormal or heavy menstrual flow
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Pelvic pain
  • Chronic constipation and/or diarrhea

It is important to note that the amount of pain experienced is not an indication of the severity of the disease. For example. some women with severe endometriosis may experience no pain, while others with a milder form of the disease may have severe pain or other symptoms

While any woman may develop endometriosis, the following women seem to be at an increased risk for the disease:

  • Women who have a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) with the disease
  • Women who are giving birth for the first time after age 30
  • Women with an abnormal uterus
Endometriosis is considered one of the three major causes of female infertility. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, endometriosis can be found in 24 – 50% of women experiencing infertility.

In mild to moderate cases of endometriosis, the associated infertility may be temporary. In these cases, surgically removing adhesions, cysts and scar tissue can restore fertility.

In the small percentage of other cases, infertility may be permanent.