Endometriosis is condition that is hard to diagnose; frequently, women are told that they are experiencing their “normal period” and the condition ends up not being diagnosed. Estimates from the Endometriosis Foundation of America reveal that in reality, the condition affects 1 in 10 women.
In response to this, a gynecological surgeon working at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Gerald Harkins, is now telling women that if they have endometriosis they do not have to suffer.
“We want to empower women to ask questions and get their questions answered,” Harkins said in a press release.
Endometriosis is a condition that affects the female reproductive system when the glands that usually grow inside the uterus are implanted on the outside. This causes severe abdominal pain while during menstruation. In some situations, the tissue appears on other organs such as the bladder, bowel and ovaries, as well as in the abdominal cavity.
The symptoms’ timing and severity can vary from patient to patient, but in cases where patients suffer from considerable pain, medication or surgery might be necessary. There are other symptoms such as urination during menstruation, painful bowel movements, pain during intercourse, fatigue, excessive bleeding and infertility.
The real causes of endometriosis are not known and there are no indicators of why some women have the disease and others do not.
“There’s no blood test for it and it can’t be diagnosed by ultrasound, CT scan or MRI,” Harkins explained reminding that it is hard to diagnose the condition. “Many women make their complaints to their family doctor or primary care doctor and are told everything’s normal, it’s just your normal, painful period and you have to live with it.”
After being diagnosed, hormonal therapy is included such as taking birth control pills, progesterone or estrogen, and it might possibly require surgical excision. There is no cure for the disease, but endometriosis is manageable and quality of life can be improved.
Harkins noted: “In some women, endometriosis is quiet and doesn’t change over their lifetime or cause a lot of damage or problems. Some women’s endometriosis is quite damaging to them and can be invasive and can invade the bladder or bowel. That type of aggressive or invasive endometriosis has to be surgically removed.”
Dr. Harkins recommended that patients ask for a second medical opinion when their symptoms persist and emphasized: “It’s important that they have the correct surgery done that both maximizes the excision of the disease and maintains their protection for fertility, if that’s important to them.”