Belly pain can have lots of causes, sometimes depending on your age, your gender, and other risk factors. One possible cause of belly pain that women should be aware of is endometriosis, which is a condition that affects an estimated 10% of women during their reproductive years.
Unfortunately, endometriosis can’t be cured — at least not yet. However, it can be managed, so you can find relief from the pain and other symptoms associated with it.
At his practice in Newburgh, Indiana, which serves the Evansville area, Paul W. Morrison, M.D., uses advanced techniques to diagnose and treat endometriosis. He offers a variety of options based on each woman’s unique needs. If you’ve been diagnosed with endometriosis — or if you think you might be suffering from its symptoms — here’s what you need to know.
Your uterus is lined with a special tissue called the endometrium, and it serves a critical purpose in helping you conceive and maintain a pregnancy. During your menstrual cycle, the endometrium grows thicker as you approach ovulation. This change prepares the uterus in the event that an egg is fertilized and “implanted” during the early stages of a pregnancy.
If you don’t become pregnant, the thickened endometrium is no longer needed, so your body sheds it. The shed endometrium is what makes up your menstrual flow.
With endometriosis, endometrial tissue grows outside of your uterus, such as on your outer uterine wall, fallopian tubes, ovaries, or intestines. As you progress through your menstrual cycle, this tissue undergoes the same changes as the endometrial tissue inside your uterus. However, unlike your uterus, when it sheds, it has no place to go, which leads to the pain and other symptoms.
Researchers aren’t sure what causes endometriosis, but they do know that it tends to be more common among women who:
They also know that the symptoms of endometriosis fluctuate along with estrogen levels, which means if you have endometriosis, your symptoms may go away — or at least lessen — once you reach menopause.
Belly pain, especially during your period, is one of the most common symptoms of endometriosis, but it’s not the only symptom. Other symptoms can include:
Endometriosis can also interfere with your ability to become pregnant.
Although there’s no cure for endometriosis, Dr. Morrison is skilled in providing patient-centered care aimed at relieving pain and other symptoms the condition can cause. The type of treatment he recommends depends on each patient’s symptoms, childbearing goals, and other factors.
For many women, birth control pills help stabilize estrogen levels and reduce the severity of symptoms. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist medicines are also a possibility. These medicines prevent your body from producing hormones that cause ovulation and menstruation.
While taking these medicines, your body enters a kind of “temporary menopause.” When you stop taking the medicines, menstruation returns and you may have a better chance at conceiving. For that reason, GnRH medicines are often recommended for women who want to become pregnant but are having difficulty conceiving due to endometriosis.
If these options aren’t effective, Dr. Morrison may recommend surgery to remove endometrial implants. If you have no plans to become pregnant in the future, he might recommend other procedures, including oophorectomy (removal of your ovaries) or hysterectomy (removal of your uterus, with or without your ovaries).
Researchers may not have found a cure or preventive treatments for endometriosis yet, but with prompt, appropriate medical treatment, you can still find relief for your uncomfortable symptoms. To learn more, call 812-490-5200 or book an appointment online with the practice of Paul W. Morrison, M.D., today.