Endometriosis is one of the most common, yet misunderstood, female diseases. Approximately 15 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 45 years of age are affected by this painful and debilitating disorder. Symptoms can begin with the onset of menstruation and progressively increase with pending menopause. Dysmenorrhea (pain with menses), dyspareunia (pain with intercourse), and infertility may also be present.
The pain some women experience can be devastating. Pain worse than childbirth was my only symptom, and, strangely, the pain radiated from my left hip into my back. Many women also experience pain when they have a full bladder or bowel. Some women experience no pain but may have fertility, ovarian or menstrual problems. The symptoms are many and vary from woman to woman.
Careful Diagnosis: Pelvic examinations by a highly skilled gynecologist may disclose nodules or lesions on the ovaries. Ultrasound tests will only show endometriosis if the ovaries are involved. Laparoscopy is the only diagnostic technique that can clearly determine if endometriosis is present. This examination, performed under general anesthetic, involves inserting a light-containing telescope through a small incision in your navel. Another one or two small incisions along the bikini line are made for the instruments.
A laparoscopy is only as good as the surgeon who performs the exam. Removing all the endometriotic tissue requires a physician who is committed to biopsy and getting rid of all suspicious abnormalities. My surgeon was meticulous, and I was rid of endometriosis in one surgery.
Endometrial tissue can look like tiny blueberries or black spots, or white, yellow or reddish cysts, varying from tiny bluish or dark brown blisters to large chocolate cysts up to 20 centimeters in diameter. Only a biopsy can confirm which tissue is truly endometriotic.
It is not uncommon for endometrial cells to grow on the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the pelvic ligaments, the outer surface of the uterus, the bladder, the large intestine and the covering of the abdominal cavity. Women are often misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, bladder infections, appendix attacks, “just” PMS or painful cramps.