March is Endometriosis Awareness Month
March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, and Aspirus Health wants women to be aware of important health symptoms they should not ignore.
Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue that forms the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) is found outside the uterus. It’s most common in women in their 30s and 40s, but endometriosis can happen in anyone with menstrual periods. According to the Office on Women’s Health (OWH), researchers believe it may affect at least 11 percent of women.
Diagnosis & Treatment
The condition can cause a myriad of uncomfortable symptoms, including chronic pelvic pain, painful bowel movements, heavy menstrual bleeding, pain during intercourse, digestive problems and infertility.
“If someone is experiencing pelvic pain of any kind, especially during and around menstrual time, when using the bathroom and/or during intercourse, they should discuss with their OB/GYN,” says Evon Schexnaydre, MD, Board Certified OB/GYN at Aspirus Rhinelander Clinic – N Shore Dr. “It could be a sign that something else is going on, since endometriosis symptoms can mimic other conditions, so it’s best to come in for an exam so we can determine a proper diagnosis and next steps for treatment.”
Treatment options vary and depend on the extent of the disease and the symptoms, and whether the patient wants to grow their family. Endometriosis may be treated with medication, surgery, or both. When pain is the primary problem, medication usually is tried first.
“Medication may include pain medications, birth control to prevent menstrual cycles and reduce the amount of menstrual bleeding when a period occurs, or special medications to suppress the ovaries from ovulating and menstrual bleeding temporarily. In some cases, surgery is needed but should be discussed with your provider,” explained Dr. Schexnaydre.
Endometriosis cannot be prevented, but there are ways to lower estrogen levels, the hormone that helps to thicken the lining of your uterus during your menstrual cycle, and reduce the chances of developing the condition. To keep lower estrogen levels in your body, OWH offers the following suggestions:
- Talk to your provider about hormonal birth control methods, such as pills, patches or rings with lower doses of estrogen.
- Exercise regularly (more than four hours a week). This will also help you keep a low percentage of body fat. Regular exercise and a lower amount of body fat help decrease the amount of estrogen circulating through the body.
- Avoid large amounts of alcohol. Alcohol raises estrogen levels. No more than one drink per day is recommended for women who choose to drink alcohol.
- Avoid large amount of drinks with caffeine. Studies show that drinking more than one caffeinated drink a day, especially sodas and green tea, can raise estrogen levels.
The bottom line? If anyone with a menstrual period is experiencing any endometriosis symptoms, they should talk with their OB/GYN promptly. For more information or to find an Aspirus OB/GYN, visit www.aspirus.org/obstetrics-gynecology.