Painful periods. The most frequent presentation is that of painful menstruation. As the individual implants undergo changes during menstruation and bleed, they cause localized inflammation. During this reaction, chemicals released may induce the pain response.
Pain with urination and bowel movements. The symptoms can vary depending on where the endometriosis is located. For example, if it were located on or near the rectum, painful bowel movements can be felt. Patients can also experience pain during urination.
Pain during intercourse. Women often experience pain during or after sexual intercourse.
Heavy bleeding. The flow of the menstrual cycle can become heavier and there may be premenstrual spotting. There may also be bleeding between periods.
Infertility. Endometriosis can be diagnosed when women are seeking infertility treatments.
Other symptoms. Include bloating, nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, and constipation (especially during menstrual cycles).
The initial step in reaching a diagnosis is to perform a pelvic ultrasound. This is an imaging study done at the bedside that allows internal structures to be seen. The different implants can be observed along with any scar tissue that may have formed. To confirm the diagnosis of endometriosis a laparoscopy is performed. Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that serves a dual purpose: to diagnose and to treat. Through small incisions on the lower abdomen, tubes equipped with a light source and cameras are passed inside to allow for better visualization. Depending on the location of the lesions and other factors, the endometriosis is staged from one to four. The stage identifies the severity of the disease and its extent.
To alleviate pain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (also known as NSAIDs) are used. Hormonal therapies such as oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) are also used for pain reduction. OCPs can prevent menstruation if taken continuously and this can help to reduce the size of the lesions or eliminate them. Surgical options are available and vary depending on whether or not the woman wants to try to conceive. Laparoscopy is used to remove the implants along with scar tissue, and this is typically done when laparoscopy is performed for diagnostic purposes. If a woman does not wish to conceive, she can have her uterus and other affected reproductive tract organs removed.
Alternative Treatments and Home Remedies
If you are experiencing pain during sex, heavy or abnormal periods, and/or pelvic pain, make an appointment to see your doctor right away. Consult with your doctor about any alternative supplements or remedies you are using at home to make sure they are safe for you to use.
Herbal products. Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory herb that has been shown in research to inhibit the growth of endometrial cells by reducing the production of the hormone estradiol (promotes endometrial cell growth). Chamomile, peppermint, and lavender are also beneficial herbs that help reduce menstrual cramps and relax the body and mind. Ginger tea is a wonderful remedy for nausea associated with endometriosis. You can use fresh ginger sliced in a cup of boiling water or tea bags.
Acupuncture. This form of treatment can be used to help with pain associated with endometriosis. Electroacupuncuture is a new acupuncture therapy that gives the body a trace current of electricity at acupoints. It has been effectively used to treat pain and symptoms of dysmenorrhea.
Heat. Using warm baths, heating pads, or hot water bottles can give you pain relieve and relax your pelvic muscles.
Diet. Increasing intake of omega-3 fatty acids (found in foods like salmon, tuna, flaxseed) may help reduce inflammation. Decrease your intake of trans fats. A study from 2010 showed a near 50% increased risk of endometriosis in women who ate a high amount of trans fats. Avoid highly processed foods and refined sugars. Eat natural fruits and vegetables instead.
Massage. Gently massage your pelvic muscles before you start your period, but not during. A gentle massage may help to reduce inflammation and relax the pelvic region, especially if you use a few drops of lavender oil in a carrier oil.
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