Endometriosis: Facts For Every Woman

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Do you, your daughter, other female family member or friend miss work, school, sports practice or social events every month due to painful or heavy periods? If the answer is yes, the cause may be endometriosis. Endometriosis is a common condition that affects approximately 1 in 10 women and female teens. Although not everyone experiences symptoms, the most common are dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps), pelvic pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, pain during bowel movements and infertility.

Although endometriosis is common, it’s also widely misunderstood and often misdiagnosed. Education is important to increasing awareness. Katz Institute for Women’s Health at Northwell Health recently joined Dr. Christine Metz, investigator at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and professor at the Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine, for a Q&A session on the topic of endometriosis. Metz shared some valuable information and insights.

What Is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is characterized by the growth of endometrial tissue or lesions outside of the uterus. These lesions can grow on the lining of the pelvis, internal organs (e.g. the outside of the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes and rectum). In some women, lesions can grow on more distant areas of the body, including the diaphragm, lungs, kidneys and brain.

What Causes Endometriosis?

The cause of endometriosis is not completely understood. However, many researchers believe that it arises after abnormal menstrual flow where menstrual blood is carried through the fallopian tubes into the pelvic cavity instead of exiting through the vagina. Like the endometrium, which sheds monthly, endometriosis lesions bleed in response to monthly hormone fluctuations. Other factors that may influence endometriosis are genetics and environmental and immune system factors.

How Is Endometriosis Diagnosed?

One of the most frustrating problems for patients with endometriosis is delayed diagnosis, which can take up to 10 years. The diagnosis of endometriosis requires laparoscopic surgery with pathology confirmation of the biopsy specimens. Early diagnosis by a doctor who specializes in treating endometriosis patients is important because early treatment can dramatically improve patient outcomes.

Do Pain And Other Symptoms Correlate With The Severity Of Endometriosis?

No. Pain and other symptoms do not always correlate with the severity of the disease.

What Are The Treatments For Endometriosis?

While there is no cure for endometriosis, treatments include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs and other pain relievers, hormonal contraceptives (e.g. birth control pills or vaginal rings), other hormonal agents (e.g. gonadotropin-releasing hormone {GnRH} agonists and antagonists, androgenic agents, progestins and Danazol) and surgery to remove the lesions or the uterus (in severe cases only).

What Can Women Do?

Researchers at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at Northwell Health are looking for women with and without endometriosis to participate in the ROSE (Research OutSmarts Endometriosis) research study. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health at 516-562-3636 for more information.

—Submitted by Katz Institute for Women’s Health

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