What is endometriosis?

Women's Care
Nov 10, 2022

Savannah OB/GYN Dr. Aishawarya Sarkar explains diagnosing and treating this pelvic condition

Ladies, do you have severe pain each month during your period? Do you think that’s just a normal part of your monthly cycle?

We don’t want you to live in pain and encourage you to talk to your OB/GYN about your symptoms because it could be a fairly common pelvic condition called endometriosis.

When endometrial tissue, which is the inside lining of the uterus, grows outside of the uterus, it is considered endometriosis, explains Dr. Aishawarya Sarkar, OB/GYN at Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Care Women’s Center. These implanted pockets of tissue or lesions can grow on other organs or surfaces such as the ovaries, the colon, the bladder, the abdominal wall or other sites, even as far as the lungs, Dr. Sarkar says.

Dr. Aishawarya Sarkar, OB/GYN

Normally, if a woman doesn’t get pregnant, endometrial tissue is shed each month during her cycle. With endometriosis, however, the misplaced tissue responds to the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle by building up, breaking down and bleeding, but has nowhere to go, causing severe pain.

“That’s when patients typically present to the office, when they have complaints of pain with their cycles,” Dr. Sarkar says. “Sometimes they may have pain with intercourse, but the main component of it is pain.”

Unfortunately, there’s no known cause of endometriosis. Some propose that backflow of endometrial tissue through the tubes can cause the endometrial implants to grow inside the abdomen.

Additionally, there may be a hereditary link to the condition, Dr. Sarkar says, so if your mother and grandmother had it you may be at higher risk. It is also more common in women in their 30s and 40s, but can affect any female.

The gold standard of diagnosing endometriosis is with a diagnostic laparoscopy, which is performed by various OB/GYNs at both Candler Hospital and our Pooler Campus’s day surgery centers. It’s a minimally-invasive surgical procedure where a small incision is made in the abdomen and a camera is used to look for any abnormal lesions. Sometimes you can treat those lesions at the same time, Dr. Sarkar says.

There are other treatment options as well. Typically it begins with medications that can control your hormones and suppress the estrogen that stimulates those implants which causes you pain, Dr. Sarkar says. If you are not trying to get pregnant, there are some options and you and your doctor can decide which is best for you. There are even medications that will shut down the ovaries and put you into early menopause that can control endometriosis pain, Dr. Sarkar adds.

If the pain is severe enough and no other options are working, then surgery may be indicated.

“Pelvic pain can be a really difficult condition,” Dr. Sarkar says. “Endometriosis is probably more common than we think because women tend to live with the pain and move on just thinking it’s part of my period. But I encourage you to seek treatment if you do experience pelvic pain.”

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