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Endometriosis

 

Statistics related to endometriosis

Endometriosis is a common gynecological condition, particularly among women of childbearing age, affecting an estimated 2 to 10 percent of American women in this age group. Endometriosis can be a debilitating disease for some women who experience ongoing pain, while others may be asymptomatic. It is also a factor in infertility. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, endometriosis can be found in 24 to 50 percent of women who experience infertility.

What is endometriosis?

The name comes from the word "endometrium," which is the tissue that lines the uterus. During a woman's regular menstrual cycle, this tissue builds up and is shed if she does not become pregnant. Women with endometriosis develop tissue that looks and acts like endometrial tissue outside the uterus, usually on other reproductive organs inside the pelvis or in the abdominal cavity. Each month, this misplaced tissue responds to the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle by building up and breaking down just as the endometrium does, resulting in internal bleeding.

Unlike menstrual fluid from the uterus that is shed by the body, blood from the misplaced tissue has nowhere to go, resulting in the tissues surrounding the endometriosis becoming inflamed or swollen. This process can produce scar tissue around the area that may develop into lesions or growths. In some cases, particularly when an ovary is involved, the blood can become embedded in the tissue where it is located, forming blood blisters that may become surrounded by a fibrous cyst.

What are the different stages of endometriosis?

A staging system has been developed by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (formerly the American Fertility Society). The stages are classified according to the following:

Stage

Level of severity

Stage I

Minimal

Stage II

Mild

Stage III

Moderate

Stage IV

Severe

The stage of endometriosis is based on the location, amount, depth, and size of the endometrial implants. Specific criteria include:

  • The extent of the spread of the implants

  • The involvement of pelvic structures in the disease

  • The extent of pelvic adhesions

  • The blockage of the fallopian tubes

The stage of the endometriosis does not necessarily reflect the level of pain experienced, risk of infertility, or symptoms present. For example, it is possible for a woman in Stage I to be in tremendous pain, while a woman in Stage IV may be asymptomatic. In addition, women who receive treatment during the first two stages of the disease have the greatest chance of regaining their ability to become pregnant following treatment.

Where are endometrial implants often found?

Endometriosis is most often found in the ovaries, but can also be found in other places, including:

  • The fallopian tubes

  • Ligaments that support the uterus

  • The internal area between the vagina and rectum

  • Outer surface of the uterus

  • In the lining of the pelvic cavity

Occasionally, the implants are found in other places, such as:

  • Intestines

  • Rectum

  • Bladder

  • Vagina

  • Cervix

  • Vulva

  • Abdominal surgery scars

What are the symptoms of endometriosis?

The following are the most common symptoms for endometriosis, however, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms of endometriosis may include:

  • Pain, especially excessive menstrual cramps which may be felt in the abdomen or lower back

  • Pain during intercourse

  • Abnormal or heavy menstrual flow

  • Infertility

  • Fatigue

  • Painful urination during menstrual periods

  • Painful bowel movements during menstrual periods

  • Other gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea, constipation, and/or nausea

It is important to note that the amount of pain a woman experiences is not necessarily related to the severity of the disease. Some women with severe endometriosis may experience no pain, while others with a milder form of the disease may have severe pain or other symptoms.

How is endometriosis related to infertility?

Endometriosis is considered one of the three major causes of female infertility. In mild to moderate cases, the infertility may be temporary. In these cases, surgery to remove adhesions, cysts, and scar tissue can restore fertility. In other cases (a very small percentage), women may remain infertile. How endometriosis affects fertility is not clearly understood. It is thought that scar tissue from endometriosis can impair release of the egg from the ovary and pickup by the fallopian tube. Other mechanisms thought to affect fertility include changes in the uterine lining that result in impaired implantation of the fertilized egg.

What causes endometriosis?

The causes of endometriosis are still unknown, although many theories abound. One theory suggests that during menstruation some of the tissue backs up through the fallopian tubes into the abdomen, a sort of "reverse menstruation," where it attaches and grows. Another theory states that certain families may have predisposing genetic factors to the disease. Current research is also looking at the role of the immune system in activating cells that may secrete factors which stimulate endometriosis.

Who is at risk for developing endometriosis?

While any woman may develop endometriosis, the following women seem to be at an increased risk for the disease:

  • Women who have a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) with the disease

  • Women who are giving birth for the first time after age 30

  • White women

  • Women with an abnormal uterus

How is endometriosis diagnosed?

For many women, simply having a diagnosis of endometriosis brings relief. Diagnosis begins with a gynecologist or other health care provider evaluating a patient's medical history and a complete physical examination including a pelvic exam. A diagnosis of endometriosis can only be certain when the doctor performs a laparoscopy (a minor surgical procedure in which a laparoscope, a thin tube with a lens and a light, is inserted into an incision in the abdominal wall. Using the laparoscope to see into the pelvic area, the doctor can often determine the locations, extent, and size of the endometrial growths).

Other examinations that may be used in the diagnosis of endometriosis include:

  • Biopsy. A procedure in which tissue samples are removed (with a needle or during surgery) from the body (often during a laparoscopy) for examination under a microscope; to determine if cancer or other abnormal cells are present.

  • Ultrasound. A diagnostic imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal organs.

  • Computed tomography (CT scan). A noninvasive diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body to detect any abnormalities that may not show up on an ordinary X-ray.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A noninvasive procedure that produces a two-dimensional view of an internal organ or structure.

Treatment for endometriosis

Specific treatment for endometriosis will be determined by your health care provider based on:

  • Your overall health and medical history

  • Current symptoms

  • Extent of the disease

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the disease

  • Your opinion or preference

  • Your desire for pregnancy

If symptoms are mild, health care providers generally agree that no further treatment, other than pain medication, is necessary.

In general, treatment for endometriosis may include:

  • "Watchful waiting" (to observe the course of the disease)

  • Pain medication (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or other over-the-counter analgesics)

  • Hormone therapy, including:  

    • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist (GnRH agonist), which stops ovarian hormone production, creating a sort of "medical menopause"

    • Danazol, a synthetic derivative of testosterone (a male hormone)

    • Oral contraceptives, with combined estrogen and progestin (a synthetic form of progesterone) hormones, prevent ovulation and reduce menstrual flow

    • Progestins alone

Surgical techniques that may be used to treat endometriosis include:

  • Laparoscopy (also used to help diagnose endometriosis). A minor surgical procedure in which a laparoscope, a thin tube with a lens and a light, is inserted into an incision in the abdominal wall. Using the laparoscope to see into the pelvic area, the doctor can often remove the endometrial growths.

  • Laparotomy. A more extensive surgery to remove as much of the displaced endometrium as possible without damaging healthy tissue.

  • Hysterectomy. Surgery to remove the uterus and possibly the ovaries.

What can be done to ease the pain of endometriosis?

Simple tips that can help ease the pain of endometriosis include:

  • Rest, relaxation, and meditation

  • Warm baths

  • Prevent constipation

  • Regular exercise

  • Use of hot water bottle or heating pad on your abdomen

Sometimes a combination of therapies is used, such as conservative surgery (laparoscopy or laparotomy), along with hormone therapy.

Some women also benefit from alternative treatments used in conjunction with other medical and surgical therapies for the treatment of endometriosis. These include:

  • Traditional Chinese medicine

  • Nutritional approaches

  • Homeopathy

  • Allergy management

  • Immune therapy

It is important to discuss any or all of these treatments thoroughly with your health care provider, as some may conflict with the effectiveness of others.

Douglas T. Carrell, Ph.D., H.C.L.D.

Doug Carrell received his Ph.D. degree in reproductive physiology from the University of Utah in 1995, after receiving a M.S. degree in cellular and developmental biology from Brigham Young University. Dr. Carrell has worked in the area of research and treatment of human infertility for 30 years. Dr. Carrell is ... Read More

Specialties:

Andrology, In Vitro Fertilization, Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility

Locations:

Andrology & IVF Laboratories (801) 581-3740

Specialties:

Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility

Locations:

Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine (801) 581-3834

Ahmad O. Hammoud, M.D., M.P.H.

Ahmad O. Hammoud, M.D., is a physician specializing primarily in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. He received his medical degree from Saint Joseph University. He then finished his residency in OBGYN at Wayne State University in Michigan. In 2005, Dr. Hammoud completed a fellowship in Reproductive End... Read More

Specialties:

In Vitro Fertilization, Obstetrics, Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility

Locations:

South Jordan Health Center (801) 581-3834
Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine (801) 581-3834
Utah Valley Regional Medical Center (801) 581-3834

James M. Hotaling, M.D., FECSM

Dr. Hotaling has significant training in both the clinical aspects of male fertility and genetic epidemiology and he is currently the only fellowship trained male infertility/andrology expert in Utah. He completed a 6 year residency in urology at the University of Washington, elected to pursue a year of sub-sp... Read More

Specialties:

Andrology, General Urology, Men's Health, Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, Urology

Locations:

Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine (801) 587-1454

Erica B. Johnstone, M.D.

Erica B. Johnstone, M.D., M.H.S., is a gynecologist and reproductive endocrinologist in the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. Dr. Johnstone clinical interests include reproductive endocrine disorders and all types of infertility, and she also works with hormonal disorders in children and ad... Read More

Specialties:

In Vitro Fertilization, Menopause, Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility

Locations:

Centerville Health Center
Madsen Health Center
South Jordan Health Center (801) 581-3834
Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine (801) 581-3834

William R. Keye, M.D.

William R. Keye, M.D., is a board-certified physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, as well as reproductive endocrinology and infertility. He received his medical degree from the University of Minnesota, and was an original member of the University of Utah’s I.V.F.(in vitro fertilization) team. He s... Read More

Specialties:

Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility

Locations:

Redstone Health Center (801) 581-3834
South Jordan Health Center (801) 581-3834
Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine (801) 581-3834

Specialties:

Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

Andrew K. Moore, M.D.

As a sixth-generation resident of Utah Valley, Dr. Moore is pleased to bring the University of Utah’s world-class reproductive medicine closer to home for Utah Valley and southern Salt Lake county residents. He has office hourse daily in Orem, and also each week in South Jordan. During his first year of practi... Read More

Specialties:

Endometriosis, In Vitro Fertilization, Minimally Invasive Pelvic Surgery, Pelvic Pain, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Recurrent Miscarriage, Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, Robotic Surgery, Tubal Ligation Reversal

Locations:

Parkway Health Center (801) 581-3834
Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine (801) 581-3834
Utah Valley Regional Medical Center (801) 581-3834

C. Matthew Peterson, M.D.

Matthew Peterson, M.D., is a Reproductive Endocrinologist in the University of Utah Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Peterson received his undergraduate degree, magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 1977 and his M.D. from the University of Utah in 1981. His residency training in obstetrics... Read More

Specialties:

Adolescent Gynecology, Endometriosis, Gynecological Surgery, Gynecology, In Vitro Fertilization, Minimally Invasive Pelvic Surgery, Pediatric Gynecology, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, Tubal Ligation Reversal, Women's Genetic Counseling

Locations:

Centerville Health Center (801) 581-3834
Parkway Health Center (801) 581-3834
South Jordan Health Center (801) 581-3834
University Hospital (801) 581-3834
Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine (801) 581-3834

Reproductive Medicine services are available at the Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine as well as multiple locations through out the state of Utah, including Centerville, Orem, South Jordan and Park City. Our reproductive endocrinologists offer a wide range of services including:

  • Infertility counseling
  • Infertility monitoring and treatment
  • IUD insertion and removal
  • Annual gynecological exams
  • Endocrinology
  • Diagnosis and treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome
  • In vitro fertilization
  • Treatment of endometriosis
  • Pediatric and adolescent gynecology services

Our highly trained reproductive endocrinology specialists are experts in both the treatment and research of infertility and our clinic consistently boasts one of the highest success rates in the nation.

Neighborhood Health Center Locations:

Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine 675 Arapeen Way, Suite 205
Salt Lake City, Utah 84108-1237
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University of Utah Health Care
Centerville Health Center
26 South Main
Centerville, Utah 84014
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Dixie Regional Medical Center 544 South 300 East
St. George, UT 84770
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McKay Dee Hospital 4401 Harrison Blvd.
Ogden, UT 84403
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University of Utah Health Care
Redstone Health Center
1743 W. Redstone Center Drive, #115
Park City, Utah 84098
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University of Utah Health Care
South Jordan Health Center
1091 W. South Jordan Parkway, Suite 500
South Jordan, 84095
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Utah Valley Regional Medical Center
Woman’s and Children’s Clinic
1034 N 500 W
Provo, Utah 84604
  • FAZST
    Keywords: Fertility, reproductive medicine, pregnancy outcomes, folic acid and zinc supplementation trial, semen quality, infertility
    Status: Recruiting
  • MORENDO
    Keywords: Endometriosis
    Status: Active, not recruiting
  • Healthy Conceptions for Couples Intervention Pilot Study
    Keywords: Infertility, Obesity, polycystic ovarian syndrome, emotionally focused therapy, weight loss
    Status: Recruiting