Every woman with a regular menstrual cycle sheds the lining of her uterus approximately every 28 days during her monthly period. Endometriosis occurs when the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus and causes painful complications. The good news is that endometriosis is very treatable, and there are a variety of options available to you.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis happens when the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, spreads outside the uterus unrelated to a menstrual cycle. This tissue may attach to the ovaries, intestines and/or ligaments in the pelvis. Endometriosis may occur in flat patches, or grow into large and small cysts.

In severe cases, endometriosis can spread widely throughout the pelvic region and bind together with the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and/or intestines, leading to scar tissue and fertility issues.

Symptoms and warning signs of endometriosis can include:

  • Painful periods
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Intestinal disturbance with periods
  • Pelvic pain
  • Infertility
  • Fatigue

Causes of endometriosis

While the exact cause of endometriosis is unknown, it may be associated with:

  • Retrograde menstruation
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Surgical scars

People at risk for developing endometriosis include those who:

  • Are 25-40 years old
  • Have never had children
  • Have experienced irregular periods since puberty
  • Have a family history of endometriosis

Diagnosis and testing for endometriosis

A healthcare provider will perform tests to confirm an endometriosis diagnosis. These tests may include:

Endometriosis treatment options

When infertility is the main concern, fertility drugs, artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization (IVF) may also be advised as treatment options.

Other treatment options may include:

  • Hormonal therapy: Using progesterone to mimic the state of pregnancy or menopause may help ease endometriosis.
  • Oral contraceptives: Commonly known as "the pill," oral contraceptives can help with symptoms of endometriosis, including extreme cramping.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, may help with painful symptoms of endometriosis.
  • Surgery: Minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery may be needed to scrape away the endometrium that has spread within the pelvic region. Many times, women who are infertile because of endometriosis are able to become pregnant right away after having this procedure.

Women's health care at Main Line Health

Treatments

Endometrial Ablation

Treatment

An endometrial ablation is a safe and quick procedure to reduce heavy bleeding for patients with uterine problems.

Hormone Therapy

Treatment

Main Line Health offers hormone therapy to treat symptoms caused by menopause, premature ovarian failure and surgical removal of the ovaries.

Medications

Treatment

Services

Fertility

If you’re ready to have a child, but facing fertility challenges, reproductive endocrinologists can help. Find fertility solutions and services at locations throughout the Philadelphia area.

Gynecology

Whether you’re seeing us for common gynecological problems or seeking out advanced therapies and the very best surgical expertise, our physicians, board-certified are here for in gynecology, are here for you every stage of your life from adolescence through the childbearing years into menopause and beyond.

Women's Health

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