How Will My Doctor Determine If I Have Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a relatively common disease among females, affecting over 5 million women in the United States alone. It results from the growth of endometrial tissue - a unique tissue found only in the uterus - in places other than the uterus. Because endometrial tissue is very dynamic, responding to hormones by periodically growing and shedding, its presence in places other than the uterus can result in serious complications if untreated.
Vague and Variable Symptoms
The symptoms presented by endometriosis are often very difficult to differentiate from other, less serious conditions. Premenstrual cramps and bloating among women can be incredibly variable, the most severe of which can feel much like endometriosis. The pain felt by endometriosis patients is often worst around menstruation, and tends to increase in severity over the course of several months. Those with endometriosis can also experience pain during bowel movements or urination, common symptoms of urinary tract infections and constipation, respectively.
Diagnosis and Monitoring Progression
A definitive diagnosis is best achieved not by compiling a list of symptoms but by a biopsy of the suspected tissue(s). Because endometrial tissue is so unique, a small tissue sample provides ample evidence for diagnosis of endometriosis. Laparoscopy: most common procedure for diagnosing endometriosis. Involves making several small incisions - under anesthesia - and examining the abdomen for endometrial growths using a small surgical camera. Several biopsies, or very small tissue samples, are taken and later examined under a microscope. Ultrasound: using high frequency sound waves, an ultrasound creates an image of a landscape (in this case, the abdominal cavity). When a sound wave bounces off an object in the body, the wave is reflected back and picked up by a detector. The detector then processes this information and creates an image. Most often used to visualize unborn babies, ultrasound can also be used to eliminate other pelvic diseases when attempting to diagnose endometriosis. MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging works by utilizing changing magnetic fields to influence the position of hydrogen atoms. Different tissues contain different amounts and patterns of hydrogen atoms, resulting it a sort of signature for each tissue. While rarely used to diagnose endometriosis, it can be used to track the progression of endometrial growths after they are identified by biopsy.
Depending on how advanced a case of endometriosis is, a doctor may suggest different degrees of treatment. The most common treatment is surgical removal of endometrial growths. However, growths can often re-occur throughout a woman's menstruating years, often requiring either more surgeries or drug treatment. Drug treatments work from several angles, including reduction of inflammation, pain management, and reduction of ovarian function. Because ovaries release hormones that trigger endometrial tissue activity, down-regulating ovarian activity can lessen endometrial growth activity.Prescription meds come with many side affects so sometimes a natural treatment is better is the long run.
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