Endometriosis can change your life, but it doesn’t mean your life is over. With the right doctor, you can find the treatment that works best for you.
Alex Hayes:Can you define for me what actually is endometriosis?
Todd Jenkins, MD:Very simply, endometriosis is a condition where tissue that looks like the lining of your uterus is somewhere it's not supposed to be. That lining of the uterus goes by the name endometrium. So this is outside the uterus so we give it the name endometriosis.
Anila Ricks-Cord, MD:Some of the tissue that's supposed to be inside the lining of the uterus decides, "Mm, that's nice. I'm not going to do what these other people are doing." And so it actually ends up inside your pelvis. That tissue isn't necessarily just limited to your pelvis. It can travel and invade your bladder. It can invade your bowel. It can invade your diaphragm.
Alex Hayes:Why is that a problem?
Todd Jenkins, MD:As many women know, whenever they're on their cycle, many women get cramping pain, they get bleeding. Well, imagine that occurring at other sites in your body. That causes inflammation. It causes some scarring.
Anila Ricks-Cord, MD:Chicks who have endometriosis have pelvic pain in a whole other way. Some people have pain that only comes when their cycle comes, when that lining dies, and you get these inflammatory changes and some ladies have pain the entire month.
Anila Ricks-Cord, MD:Can you walk me through the symptoms?
Todd Jenkins, MD:We referred to them in medical terms as the three Ds: Dysmenorrhea, which means painful cycles, dyschezia, which many women don't know that it's painful bowel movements, especially when they're on their cycle. And then probably the most distressing to some women is dyspareunia, or pain with intercourse.
Alex Hayes:And once you do come to endometriosis, what are the treatment options?
Anila Ricks-Cord, MD:You want to do whatever you can do in order to be able to decrease your levels of inflammation. So the first go-to are NSAIDs, ibuprofen, exercise plays a role in your perception of pain with endometriosis. And there are supplements that you can take in order to be able to decrease the inflammation that exists inside your personal space.
Todd Jenkins, MD:From a medical perspective, anything that that stabilizes your rate of estrogen works. Estrogen feeds endometriosis. So anything we can do to control that is going to help that. Many women will use an oral contraceptive pill. There are second-line medical treatments. There's a hormone that comes from the brain called gonadotropin-releasing hormone. The other medications we use block the action of that hormone. So it stops feeding the endometriosis, which is our goal.
Anila Ricks-Cord, MD:You approach the patient in a stepwise fashion, looking at what their symptoms are and how they present. And then you work your way through trying to find something that brings them improved quality of life. It's a diagnosis and it's a disease, but it's not the end of the world.
Todd Jenkins, MD:I would say the large majority of women we can get to where they can live their life in health and happiness, and only have endometriosis be something that they have to take care of with a medicine or with some treatment.
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