The month of March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, an initiative to raise awareness of a disease that affects approximately 176 million women worldwide. Endometriosis is a chronic disease that occurs when the tissue that normally lines the uterus, the endometrium, grows outside of the uterus. The tissue can be found on the fallopian tubes, the ovaries or even the intestines. This displaced tissue acts as it normally would; it thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. The problem is that it has no way to exit the woman’s body, and it can cause cysts, adhesions and scar tissue to develop.
The most common symptom of endometriosis is pain in the pelvic area, which often worsens during the menstrual period. While cramping and discomfort is somewhat common for women during their periods, women who have endometriosis typically have much worse pain during their monthly cycle. Also, women with endometriosis usually experience very heavy periods, and bleed between cycles. Another symptom is pain during or after sexual intercourse. Many women with endometriosis also experience pain while urinating or having a bowel movement. Other symptoms include: infertility, extreme fatigue, diarrhea or constipation and nausea. Since so many of these symptoms occur during the menstrual period, women often overlook them, thinking that they are simply symptoms of their period.
Medical researchers have identified several factors that put you at a greater risk of developing endometriosis, including:
• Having your period at a young age
• Having a short menstrual cycle (less than 27 days)
• Never giving birth
• Going through menopause at an older age
• Having higher levels of estrogen
• Having a low body mass index (BMI)
• Consuming alcohol
• Having one or multiple close relatives with endometriosis
• Having any abnormalities in the uterus
At Maryville Imaging, we encourage women who experience the symptoms listed above to contact their doctor for a consultation. If he or she believes that you may have endometriosis, a transvaginal ultrasound may be prescribed. This type of ultrasound can diagnose ovarian endometriosis, as it can detect cysts on the ovaries. An abdominal ultrasound can identify larger endometrial implants and cysts. Other diagnostic procedures for endometriosis include: a pelvic exam, a laparoscopy and blood tests. There are multiple treatment options for endometriosis. Typically with each individual case of endometriosis, the most effective treatment plan will depend on the severity of it. Treatment options include pain medications, hormone therapy, surgery, in vitro fertilization (if the woman is trying to become pregnant) or a hysterectomy. Doctors usually recommend surgery or a hysterectomy as a last resort, if the other treatments fail to work or the case is very severe.
We want women to take charge of their health this month and year round! We offer ultrasounds in a comfortable environment. If you have any questions about our ultrasound service or any other imaging service, please call 618-288-4929.