Endometriosis FAQs: What You Should Know
- Posted on: Nov 9 2013
If you have been diagnosed with endometriosis and want to get pregnant, you might appreciate answers to a few of the most frequently asked questions about this disease that affects between 5-6 million women in the U.S. annually.
Endometriosis may have many symptoms and is one of the main causes of female infertility.
Q. What is endometriosis?
A. Endometriosis is a disease that affects women in which the tissue that lines the uterus, called the endometrium, begins growing outside the uterus in other places…places where it shouldn’t be. This endometrial tissue builds up each month and then sloughs off, or sheds, during the menstrual cycle.
A woman with endometriosis may have this tissue growing almost anywhere in her body, including the brain, skin, lungs and elsewhere. However, these cases are rare and in the majority of cases, the endometrial tissue grows in or on the reproductive organs and in the abdominal cavity. The tissue can break down with bleeding just as it does during a normal menstrual cycle; causing pain, internal bleeding, inflammation, scarring and degeneration of tissue and adhesions.
Q. Can endometriosis affect your odds of getting pregnant?
A. Yes. An estimated 40% – 60 % of women who suffer from endometriosis have infertility.
Q. Is there a cure for endometriosis?
A. Sadly, no. But there are quite a few effective treatments available. Treatments are aimed at decreasing pain or helping a woman to conceive. Treatments include surgery, ovulation induction, and In vitro fertilization. The choice of treatment will depend upon whether you desire to become pregnant or need to treat the pain associated with the disease.
Q. What causes endometriosis?
A. The exact cause of this disease is not known. Research is being done every day to try and determine the cause or causes. There are several popular theories about what causes endometriosis.
Among them is the idea that women with the condition have immune system problems. Another is that it is caused by menstrual blood backing up into the fallopian tubes, uterus and abdominal cavity during the menstrual cycle. This is called retrograde menstruation and there is no conclusive evidence that it contributes to endometriosis.
Q. What tests will show if you have endometriosis?
A. Your symptoms and history might indicate the presence of this disease. A pelvic examination might also point toward it. But, to be absolutely sure, the Colorado fertility doctor will need to perform a laparoscopy. Ultrasound rarely shows endometriosis and most of the time, it is not shown on an MRI.
Surgery is the only way to definitely diagnosis endometriosis. It can be suspected thru the history, exam or ultrasound but surgery is needed to prove its existence. At the time of surgery endometriosis shows up as blue or black spots, new vessel formation, reddened areas and other signs that alert a trained eye to the presence of the condition.
Q. How does endometriosis affect fertility?
A. When the endometrial tissue strays outside the lining of the uterus, all kinds of reproductive problems may occur that prevent conception or affect your body’s ability to carry a baby to term. Endometriosis can lead to scar tissue that can block fallopian tubes, it can cause scar tissue and adhesions that bring about misalignment of your uterus and ovaries, it can cause large endometrial cysts that can interfere with normal ovulation, and more.
Q. If you have endometriosis, can you still get pregnant?
A. Some women with endometriosis will conceive without therapy. However 40-60% of women with endometriosis will need to see a fertility specialist to conceive. Treatments include: surgery, ovulation induction and IVF. Thanks to ART, or Assisted Reproductive Technology, many women with endometriosis get pregnant and have babies.
If you suspect that you have endometriosis and are having trouble getting pregnant, you should see a fertility doctor as soon as possible.
Dr. Deborah Smith, Medical Director at Rocky Mountain Fertility Center, has one of the Top Fertility Clinics in Colorado. For over 2 decades, she has been offering premier, compassionate reproductive options to help women reach their fertility goals.
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