Diagnosis of endometriosis
There are several potential ways to identify endometriosis. Some standard methods of diagnosis include:
- Pelvic examination: Endometriosis can cause cysts to grow behind your uterus. During a pelvic exam, your doctor may be able to feel these growths.
- Imaging: If you have symptoms of endometriosis, but no cysts are apparent during a pelvic exam, your doctor may also conduct imaging tests such as an MRI or an ultrasound to screen for possible endometriosis growths and rule out other causes.
- Hormone therapy: If imaging and pelvic exams do not reveal endometriosis, your doctor may still suggest you try a hormonal contraceptive or hormonal medications to reduce discomfort surrounding your period. If these medications are effective, you likely have endometriosis.
- Surgery: In rare cases, a surgical approach using a laparoscope (a small instrument) to examine your abdomen for signs of endometrial tissue growth or to take samples of your tissue is used. The most definitive way to tell whether endometriosis is the culprit behind your symptoms is for a doctor to examine a sample of tissue that has grown outside of your uterus under a microscope.
Treatment options depend on the severity of the endometriosis, your medical history, and whether or not you wish to become pregnant in the future. At Dignity Health, we offer a range of endometriosis treatments, including:
- Medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen may help ease pain.
- Hormone therapy: Endometrial tissue grows and shrinks in response to hormones. Hormone medications can control hormone levels and decrease uncomfortable endometriosis symptoms. Hormone therapy may include birth control pills, progestin-containing IUDs, contraceptive injections, and medications to block the release of hormones.
- Lifestyle changes: Regular exercise and avoiding alcohol and caffeine may improve symptoms.
- Surgery: Surgery isn’t a cure for endometriosis but may be needed if other treatments haven’t provided enough relief. Doctors remove patches of endometrial tissue from outside the uterus. About 40 to 80 percent of women who get surgery for endometriosis develop pain again within two years. Health care providers also often recommend surgery to improve fertility in women with endometriosis who want to have children. If your endometriosis is severe and you do not want children, doctors may remove your uterus and ovaries. However, endometriosis may return even after this is done.
- Fertility treatment: If you have endometriosis and are trying to get pregnant, your health care provider may refer you to a fertility specialist.
Because endometriosis affects every woman differently, your doctor will tailor your treatment plan to your specific needs.
Our experts work with you to determine which treatment or combination of treatments will best control your symptoms and allow you to meet your reproductive goals. At Dignity Health, we help you through every step of the process in treating your endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a chronic condition that usually must be managed over time.
The symptoms can be reduced or eliminated with the use of hormonal medications or hormonal contraceptives. Menopause also often brings endometriosis relief due to the accompanying hormonal changes.
Dignity Health provides services for the diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis at our locations throughout the country. Find a Doctor today for compassionate and effective endometriosis care.
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.