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At Northwest Specialty Hospital and our NWSH family of clinics and caregivers, our patient’s well-being is our top priority. The goal of healthcare should not just be treating you when you are sick or injured but looking out for your health and welfare long-term. One way we can do this is by educating our patients about how best to care for themselves and encouraging them to be proactive in safeguarding their health.

Part of this effort is creating “awareness months” for different diseases and conditions, and one of the designations for March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. Our Northwest Women’s Care clinic would like to shed some light on this condition so that women will know what it is, what to look for, and what treatments are available. However, being aware is not just for women who have endometriosis; others should make an effort to understand what those who have endometriosis may be going through so that they can be supportive and helpful.


Facts About Endometriosis

Endometriosis affects millions of women worldwide; estimates are that over 10% of all women who are of childbearing age suffer from this condition. Understanding endometriosis and its symptoms and seeking timely medical attention is vital to taking charge of your health and preventing complications. 


Endometriosis involves the abnormal growth of tissue similar to the inner lining of the uterus outside the uterus. Like the uterine lining, this tissue thickens, breaks down, and bleeds during menstrual cycles. However, unlike the normal menstrual process, this tissue has no exit route, leading to the formation of cysts, irritation of surrounding tissue, and the development of fibrous bands called adhesions. These adhesions can cause pelvic organs to stick together, resulting in pain and potential fertility issues.


Common Symptoms

The most prominent symptom experienced by women with endometriosis is pelvic pain, which often intensifies during menstrual periods. This pain is different from the regular cramping that many women experience during their periods, and the pain level can escalate over time. It’s important to note that the severity of pelvic pain experienced does not necessarily relate to the extent of endometriosis growths; some may experience severe pain with minimal tissue, while others may have extensive growths without noticeable discomfort.


Other common symptoms include discomfort during or after sexual intercourse, pain during a bowel movement or urination, and excessive bleeding during menstruation. In some cases, endometriosis can cause infertility. For women who can get pregnant, studies have shown that having endometriosis can increase a woman’s risk of ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage. 


Seeking Medical Attention

Recognizing the signs of endometriosis is crucial for timely intervention. If you experience any symptoms, it’s essential to reach out to your healthcare provider. Bear in mind, however, that endometriosis shares symptoms with other health conditions, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian cysts, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 


Treatment for endometriosis can involve a combination of medications and surgical interventions, with the appropriate choice dependent on the severity of symptoms and the patient’s fertility goals.


The most basic treatment is pain medication, including over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium to alleviate cramps. Hormone therapy can also be utilized to regulate menstrual cycle-related changes in endometriosis tissue. Different hormonal treatments are available, including hormonal contraceptives (birth control pills, patches, etc.) to control hormones stimulating endometriosis, Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) agonists and antagonists to induce artificial menopause, progestin therapy to halt menstrual periods and endometriosis tissue growth, and aromatase inhibitors to lower estrogen levels. However, these approaches do not provide a permanent solution.


Surgical options include conservative surgery, which aims to remove endometriosis tissue while preserving the uterus and ovaries. This surgery is often performed laparoscopically. This surgery can enhance fertility in those trying to conceive but does not guarantee a permanent solution. In severe cases, more extensive abdominal surgery may be necessary. Fertility treatments involving medications to stimulate egg production or in vitro fertilization may be recommended for those experiencing difficulties getting pregnant due to endometriosis.


For some individuals, radical surgery in the form of a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) with or without removal of the ovaries may be considered, usually if other treatments prove ineffective. However, healthcare professionals often prefer thorough endometriosis tissue removal over a hysterectomy because ovary removal induces early menopause, which may alleviate symptoms of endometriosis but carries other health risks.


Effective Care: Northwest Women’s Care

In dealing with endometriosis, it is crucial to find a healthcare professional with whom you feel comfortable, and you should feel free to seek alternative opinions before starting any treatment. There is no perfect solution, and you need to understand your options and their respective benefits, downsides, and risks. 


At NWSH Women’s Care, our team of dedicated professionals is here to support you. As we give attention to women during Endometriosis Awareness Month, let’s unite to encourage early detection and foster an environment of support and compassion for women dealing with this condition. For women seeking a clinic that can help with health challenges that affect women disproportionately or exclusively, including endometriosis, please contact NWSH Women’s Care.

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