Endometriosis Awareness Month

endometriosis awareness month

March marks Endometriosis Awareness Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness of the disorder affecting millions of women worldwide, yet often goes undiagnosed or misunderstood. Endometriosis is more than just painful periods; it’s a chronic and often debilitating condition that can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. In this blog, we’re shedding light on endometriosis by exploring what it is, how it gets diagnosed, and treatment and support options available to those experiencing the condition.  

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a chronic disorder in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus (commonly on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvic tissue), leading to the formation of inflammation and scar tissue. It can start at a person’s first menstrual period and last through menopause.  

Approximately 1 in 10 women are affected by endometriosis during their reproductive years, which is approximately 176 million women worldwide, yet the disease remains widely misunderstood and difficult to diagnose.

Symptoms and Risk Factors

Endometriosis can present with a wide range of symptoms or no symptoms at all. Common symptoms include:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Painful periods (dysmenorrhea)
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pain during bowel movements or urination
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Bloating or nausea
  • Infertility or trouble getting pregnant

Factors that increase the risk of developing endometriosis include:

  • Having a family member with the condition
  • Heavy periods lasting more than 7 days
  • A menstrual cycle shorter than 27 days
  • Early menstruation (before 11 years old)

It is important to remember that every woman’s experience with endometriosis is unique. If you are experiencing any symptoms or believe you may have endometriosis, the first step you can take toward finding the right treatment plan for you is to start logging your symptoms and experiences. 

Challenges in Diagnosis

The average time to diagnose endometriosis can be 7 to 10 years from the onset of symptoms, often due to a lack of awareness. Because symptoms are so broad and varied, healthcare professionals often cannot easily diagnose endometriosis. Additionally, menstrual pain is often normalized and symptoms can mimic other conditions, going misdiagnosed. 

A detailed history and documentation of menstrual symptoms and any chronic pain experienced may lead a healthcare professional to suspect endometriosis. A pelvic exam and imaging tests such as ultrasounds and MRIs can also help detect signs of endometriosis, however, at the moment, the only way to diagnose the condition is through laparoscopy. This allows the surgeon to look inside for signs of endometrial tissue growth. The procedure is minor, minimally invasive, and is done under general anesthesia.

Self-advocacy is critical in the diagnostic process, but it is just as important for healthcare professionals to listen to their patient’s symptoms and advocate for proper diagnosis and treatment. Early diagnosis and management of symptoms may slow the natural progression of the disease, reducing the long-term burden they experience. 

Treatment Options

The cause of endometriosis is unknown, and there is no way to prevent or cure it, but treatments are available to manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Treatment options include:

  • Pain relief medications
  • Hormonal therapies
  • Surgery to remove lesions, adhesions, and scar tissue

Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgeries (MIGS)

Reproductive health issues can feel daunting, and this feeling can heighten when surgery comes into the conversation. Luckily, the landscape of women’s healthcare is evolving thanks to years of dedicated research and advancements in gynecologic health. 

Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgeries, or MIGS, are at the forefront of this transformation and have emerged as an advanced approach to treating endometriosis. MIGS is an approach in which specialized tools and techniques are used to make small incisions, usually less than an inch in size. MIGS techniques such as laparoscopic excision or ablation can effectively remove endometrial tissues while minimizing postoperative pain and scarring, reducing cost, and speeding up recovery times. 

Essex County OB/GYN is proud to have Dr. Courtney Fox, a fellowship-trained minimally invasive gynecologic surgeon, on our team of physicians. In addition to being board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology, she utilizes minimally invasive surgery techniques with laparoscopy, robotics, and hysteroscopy to manage complex pathologies, including endometriosis excision surgery.

Living With Endometriosis: Support and Resources

Living with endometriosis can be both physically and emotionally challenging, but it is important to know there are people and resources available to help you navigate your journey with strength and resilience. Seeking support from healthcare providers, joining support groups, and connecting with others in similar situations through online communities can provide valuable resources, advice, and overall support. Additionally, whether you or a loved one are experiencing endometriosis, organizations, like the Endometriosis Foundations of America, offer educational resources, advocacy initiatives, and support networks. 

Endometriosis is complex and challenging, but you don’t have to face it alone. If you or someone you know is struggling with symptoms of endometriosis, Essex County OB/GYN is here to help. Our experienced team of providers offers specialized, compassionate care and support for those dealing with the condition. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and take the first steps towards managing your endometriosis confidently.

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