At Shenandoah Women’s HealthCare in Harrisonburg, VA, we understand how frustrating it is to live with chronic pain. We also understand how frustrating it is for women to desperately want to carry a pregnancy to term and struggle with infertility. For these reasons, among others, we are proud to offer effective endometriosis treatments. Today, we’re taking a look at what you can expect from an endometriosis exam from your local fertility care clinic.
What Should You Do If You Think You Have Endometriosis?
If you think you have endometriosis, it is vital that you schedule an endometriosis exam at your local fertility care clinic. It is important to get an evaluation from a feminine healthcare expert because this condition is often misdiagnosed. If your doctor thinks you have dysmenorrhea or some other condition that causes pelvic pain, you cannot get proper treatment. With an accurate diagnosis, though, you can get help for your pain, infertility, bloating, and other symptoms.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a disease affecting the endometrium. The endometrium is the tissue normally found lining the uterus on the inside. Women with endometriosis have endometrium outside of the uterus. Usually, endometriosis affects the pelvis and lower abdomen.
What Causes This Condition?
This disease is idiopathic. In other words, it is not yet known what exactly is the cause of endometriosis. One theory is that retrograde menstruation, a condition where blood and tissue travel from the uterus to the abdominal cavity through the fallopian tubes, causes endometriosis. The fact that most women experience retrograde menstruation and only 10% of women have endometriosis may be explained by immune system differences.
It is also thought that your genes may result in you developing this disease because your family medical history is a significant risk factor. It is also thought that surgery, such as a cesarean section, could be the cause of endometriosis in some women. Furthermore, there is a theory that blood vessels or the lymphatic system transport endometrial cells throughout the body. Finally, it has been hypothesized that coelomic metaplasia causes this disease.
What Are the Risk Factors of Endometriosis?
To reiterate, having a relative who has been diagnosed with endometriosis is a very significant risk factor. Another significant risk factor is never giving birth. Having menstrual cycles that last fewer than 27 days is another significant risk factor. Moreover, you are at a greater risk of developing endometriosis if you have heavy menstrual periods that last for more than a week.
Other significant risk factors for developing endometriosis include starting menstruation at an early age or starting menopause at an older age. Reproductive tract disorders and medical conditions that prevent blood from passing during menstruation may also result in the development of this disease.
Is There Anything I Can Do to Mitigate My Risk of Developing This Disease?
Many of the risk factors of developing endometriosis cannot be changed. However, having a low body mass index is a risk factor that you can change. Gaining weight can reduce your risk significantly.
How Is Endometriosis Diagnosed?
In the past, endometriosis was diagnosed with laparoscopy, an abdominal surgery that involved an incision made through the navel. However, if you visit a highly skilled OB/GYN, you can be diagnosed accurately with a non-invasive ultrasound.
How Is Endometriosis Treated?
How endometriosis is treated depends on the stage of the condition. Women often go between seven years and a full decade without a proper diagnosis, and the condition worsens over time. The more severe the condition is, the more likely it is that laparoscopic surgery is required. If caught early enough, most symptoms can be treated at home with a heating pad while hormone therapy is taking effect.
What Are the Stages of Endometriosis?
There are four stages of endometriosis, and the stage you suffer from plays a role in determining the ideal treatment method for you. The first stage is minimal and characterized by inflammation, mild adhesions, and only small plaques or patches on the endometrium. The second stage, mild, presents the same symptoms as the first stage. However, the endometrial patches are much greater in number and there is a significant chance of scarring.
Furthermore, women with mild endometriosis often have adhesions between the rectum and uterus. The third stage of endometriosis is diagnosed when symptoms are moderate. You can expect the same symptoms as previously mentioned. However, ovarian adhesions are also present. The fourth stage, the severe stage, can present previously mentioned symptoms and:
- Pelvic organ shape changes
- Bladder adhesions
- Bowel adhesions
- Many implanted patches
- Scarred nodules forming from patches
How Should I Prepare for My Appointment?
To prepare for your appointment, it is a good idea to keep a journal of all your symptoms. Regardless of whether you have endometriosis or not, your symptoms will help us make an accurate diagnosis. Be prepared to talk about your periods, period pain, other pain, and other symptoms.
What Questions Will Be Asked About My Period?
You should not be surprised if we ask you how old you were when you started menstruating. We also need to know whether your periods are regular, how long they last, and how heavy they are. To help you answer the questions as accurately as possible, you may want to note what type of feminine hygiene product you use (like regular or super) and hope often you change your feminine hygiene products.
We also need to know when you last started your period and whether spotting or bleeding between periods occurs. Furthermore, knowing whether you have a brown discharge before menstruating and whether you have lots of bleeding during your periods will help us make an accurate diagnosis. Finally, you should note the clots you pass during menstruation.
What Questions Will You Ask About My Period Pain?
The first thing we need to know is whether menstruation is painful for you. It shouldn’t be. If you experience menstrual pain, note when the pain starts and how many hours or days it lasts. You should also note where it hurts and whether it is getting worse over time.
Assuming you have pain, we also need to know whether it keeps you from performing your usual routine, like working out or going to work. Furthermore, you should note the steps you take to minimize your pain, such as using a heating pad or taking medication. If you take medication, we need to know what type of medication you are taking, as well as the dosage. Finally, note whether you have GI symptoms or sweating accompanying your pain.
What Other Pain Will You Ask Me About?
We will ask you whether pain during or after sex occurs. While pain during sex may be normal for you, it shouldn’t occur. We also need to know whether urination or bowel movements are painful. Noting any pain you may have during ovulation will also help us make an accurate diagnosis, and we need to know whether any pain before your period keeps you from your usual routine, like work or exercise.
We also need to know what helps or worsens your pain. If you take medication for your pain, make a note of what you take for your pain, how much you take, and how often you take it. Finally, note how effective the medication you take is.
What Other Symptoms Will You Ask Me About?
One of the most common symptoms of endometriosis is infertility. While we are sensitive to the fact that it is a difficult conversation to have, we need to know whether you have ever tried to become pregnant. If you have, you should be prepared to talk about how long you tried to become pregnant.
One of the most significant risk factors for endometriosis is your genetics. Therefore, we need to know about any relatives, like your mom or sister, who have been diagnosed with endometriosis. Furthermore, we need to know when you suffer from such symptoms as:
- Fatigue or tiredness
Schedule Your Endometriosis Exam at Your Local Fertility Care Clinic Today
If you suspect you suffer from endometriosis, it is extremely important that you schedule an endometriosis exam at your local fertility care clinic. Endometriosis is an incredibly frustrating, painful condition, and it is often misdiagnosed. For proper care, you need a proper diagnosis. If your doctor isn’t helping you with your chronic pain and discomfort, schedule an exam at Shenandoah Women’s HealthCare in Harrisonburg, VA today.