Endometriosis, a disorder that affects at least 10% of women, causes the lining of your uterus (the endometrium) to grow outside your womb. The misplaced tissue still thickens and breaks down just like it would if it were inside your uterus — but since it can’t shed and leave your body, it creates inflammation, irritation, scar tissue … and extremely painful periods.
At Darin Swainston MD. FACOG, our board-certified OB/GYNs specialize in diagnosing and treating endometriosis for women in the Las Vegas, Nevada, area. We also understand that it’s not always easy to know what’s causing painful periods.
If heavy bleeding, painful and debilitating cramps, extreme fatigue, nausea, and other troublesome symptoms accompany your periods, endometriosis could be the cause. Here’s a closer look at what you need to know.
What is endometriosis?
Every month, your uterus prepares for a fertilized egg by causing the endometrial tissue inside your uterus to get thicker. If you don't conceive, this lining sheds and you get your period. The cycle begins again once your period ends.
When you have endometriosis, some of the endometrial tissue grows outside of your uterus. It can develop on your ovaries, fallopian tubes, the outside of the uterus, and even your intestines, bladder, and other areas of your body.
This tissue still responds to the natural shifts in your hormones, thickening and breaking down in response to these changes. But since it can’t leave your body, it irritates the organs and tissues it surrounds, causing lesions, scar tissue, and adhesions.
Are painful periods a sign of endometriosis?
Since endometriosis occurs outside the uterus, it can’t be seen through a pelvic exam. In fact, the only way to know for sure you have endometriosis is with exploratory surgery. This is especially true since painful periods can be a sign of other conditions, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), uterine fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and more.
Generally speaking, your Darin Swainston MD. FACOG provider uses your symptoms to make a diagnosis, including the presence of chronically painful periods. If your painful periods come with other signs of endometriosis, it’s more likely than not that they’re a sign of endometriosis.
Some of the symptoms to watch for when it comes to endometriosis include:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding, especially with clots
- Abnormal uterine bleeding or spotting
- Severe menstrual cramps
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Nausea and fatigue
- Problems with urination or bowel movements
- Painful intercourse
Over time, endometriosis can lead to difficulty getting pregnant. In fact, it’s one of the leading causes of infertility in women, with about half of women diagnosed with moderate-to-severe endometriosis struggling to conceive.
Unfortunately, many women don’t realize they have endometriosis until they struggle with infertility. Knowing the signs and seeking help from your Darin Swainston MD. FACOG provider as soon as possible can make working through any fertility challenges easier.
Are there treatments for endometriosis?
While endometriosis doesn’t have a cure, the good news is that different treatment options for endometriosis are available. Your Darin Swainston MD. FACOG provider offers different treatment options depending on the severity of your symptoms and how they affect your life. Here’s a look at some of your options:
Treating mild endometriosis
When endometriosis is mild, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen or naproxen, may be able to help manage your pain. Certain lifestyle changes, like switching to a balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise, and using healthy stress management and relaxation techniques, can also help your symptoms.
Your provider may also recommend using certain birth control methods, like an IUD, to help manage your symptoms and slow the progression of this degenerative disease by reducing the development of scar tissue and adhesions so you can keep your fertility in place longer.
Treating moderate to severe endometriosis
Moderate to severe endometriosis can not only cause debilitating symptoms, like extremely painful periods and heavy bleeding, but it can also affect your ability to become pregnant. That’s why the team at Darin Swainston MD. FACOG uses the latest in medical technology to halt the progression of the disease, including robotic-assisted surgeries such as:
- Robotic-assisted removal of endometrial implants, scar tissue, and adhesions
- Destroying and removing scar tissue in the abdomen resulting from endometriosis
- Using electrical energy to destroy endometrial implants
These minimally invasive procedures can ease your symptoms and minimize complications of endometriosis while preserving your potential to have children. In years past, hysterectomy used to be the only option, which is devastating for women still wanting to have children.
If you’re ready to get a handle on painful periods, the team at Darin Swainston MD. FACOG in Las Vegas, Nevada, can help. Call our office to schedule an appointment or book a consultation online now.