Endometriosis, affecting more than 5 million American women, is a condition in which tissue from the uterine lining grows outside the uterus, causing discomfort and painful periods as well as making it more difficult to get pregnant. While medications, placement of an intrauterine device (IUD), or hormonal treatments are often prescribed for endometriosis, in some cases surgery may be necessary (typically when symptoms are severe or when fertility is affected).
If you are interested in becoming pregnant, you may benefit from conservative surgery for endometriosis. With this technique, a surgeon removes the uterine tissue from outside the uterus and any related scar tissue while preserving as much of the uterus and ovaries as possible. It is increasingly common for this procedure to be done laparoscopically. This means the surgeon makes a tiny incision through which a miniscule camera and instruments are inserted. This makes it possible for the surgeon to visualize the area without performing open surgery.
If fertility issues persist after this surgery, your doctor may recommend in vitro fertilization. For this procedure, your egg and your partner’s sperm are combined outside the body to form an embryo which is then implanted directly into the uterus.
For women who are not interested in becoming pregnant or who have already had children, and who are suffering very severe symptoms, the doctor may recommend a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) along with removal of the ovaries.
While doctors aren’t sure exactly what causes endometriosis, it likely results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The disease is most common among women in their 30s and 40s who have never given birth and have a relative who has also had the disease.
If you’re experiencing symptoms such as pelvic pain, painful periods, pain during intercourse, heavy periods, fatigue, and infertility, talk with your doctor. He or she can diagnose the problem and recommend treatment options that are right for you. Because the source of pelvic pain can be difficult to diagnose, it’s important to let him or her know about all the symptoms you’re experiencing.
Tamer Seckin, MD, a board certified gynecologist, is an internationally renowned specialist in minimally invasive laparoscopic endometriosis surgery. Dr. Seckin has been in private practice in New York City for more than 30 years, and is the co-founder and medical director of the Endometriosis Foundation of America. Learn more about Dr. Seckin’s work to raise awareness and understanding of endometriosis surgery at http://www.drseckin.com/.