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Severe Menstrual Pain? It Could Be Something Serious

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Severe Menstrual Pain? It Could Be Something Serious

Mar 31, 2015
If you experience excruciating pain when your time of the month rolls around, something could be up. Dr. Joseph Stanford explains the signs and symptoms of endometriosis and why it’s so important to see a doctor if you’re worried about your pain. “Any period pain that interferes with your life is not normal,” he says. Listen to learn more.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: If you're missing time from school or work or relationships because of severe pelvic pains, it could be endometriosis. We'll examine that next on the Scope.

Announcer: Medical news and research from University of Utah physicians and specialists you can use, for a happier and healthier life. You're listening to The Scope.

Interviewer: Fatigue, excessive pain during periods or intercourse or with bowel movements or urination, excessive bleeding and infertility. These are some of the symptoms of endometriosis. And 10% of women have this condition and some don't even realize it. Our goal for this podcast is to raise awareness to this condition and help you figure out if you might have it. Dr. Joseph Stanford is with University of Utah Health Care. Are there some other symptoms, did I miss anything?

Dr. Stanford: Those were the main symptoms. You covered it well.

Interviewer: So, why don't women realize they have this condition? I find that kind of surprising at that thought.

Dr. Stanford: A lot of women think that having pains with periods is normal or just something they have to deal with or they may go to the doctor that says, "Well, we'll see how it goes. Let me put you on the pill and see how you feel." And they don't really look into what might be the underlying issue.

Interviewer: Is this pain just during periods or is it all the times during the month?

Dr. Stanford: The biggest pain is during periods but sometimes it will get so severe that it's at other times of the month as well.

Interviewer: All right. I was reading some stories about women who have been diagnosed with the condition and I notice kind of that theme that you mentioned that sometimes doctors don't necessarily recognize the condition. Is that common?

Dr. Stanford: It's often they may not recognize it or they may just feel like, "Let's try something simple," and then try to deal with the symptoms because the only way for sure diagnose endometriosis is a surgery. So, it's understandable that sometimes doctors would be reluctant to mention that possibility.

Interviewer: Yeah, I got you. And some of these stories that I was reading also kind of led me to believe that women who know they have it, at some level, knew they have it because it's excruciating. Is that pretty accurate as well?

Dr. Stanford: Often, but I would say there's a spectrum of symptoms. Some women have milder symptoms, and they may still have the conditions.

Interviewer: So, those milder symptoms, how do you know what's normal and . . . because pain threshold, that's a very personal thing.

Dr. Stanford: I would just say pain with periods that interferes with your life, that's not normal.

Interviewer: So, many women have these terrible symptoms before they get diagnosed and treated. What causes endometriosis?

Dr. Stanford: There are a lot of theories about it, a lot of research going on, but at this point, we really don't know for sure what the causes are.

Interviewer: Do you know if it's a lifestyle issue, is it something that a woman's doing or not?

Dr. Stanford: I wouldn't say it's a lifestyle issue, there may be some environmental exposures, there may be some genetic factors.

Interviewer: Okay, all right. So, what exactly is going on? We've talked a lot about the symptoms, what is it? What's happening?

Dr. Stanford: What's happening is that tissues that are normally on the inside of the uterus called the endometrium, that tissue gets on the outside of the uterus or another part of the pelvis or other parts of the body where it's not supposed to be and it causes problems, inflammation, pain, problems.

Interviewer: I think you mentioned the only way to deal with that at this point is surgery?

Dr. Stanford: The only definitive way to get rid of it is surgery. There may be medicines to reduce the symptoms, yes.

Interviewer: All right. I understand that sometimes these conditions can be misdiagnosed as irritable bowl syndrome or IBS. Is that common?

Dr. Stanford: That would be common. That's a disease that could be confused with it, yes because irritable bowel syndrome would have some of the same symptoms.

Interviewer: Yes. How would you differentiate between the two if you're a woman.

Dr. Stanford: Well, if the symptoms are particularly around the menstrual period, the menstrual flow and if the symptoms are with intercourse, you definitely should be thinking more about endometriosis.

Interviewer: All right. So, other than the misery and compromising quality of life, are there other reasons that a woman should be treated for this condition.

Dr. Stanford: Yes, in the long run, it can reduce fertility if she is wanting to have children. Also, there's some indication that it may be linked to some future cancer risks.

Interviewer: Is there anything I left out, anything that you feel compelled to say, anything that you feel a woman should know about?

Dr. Stanford: Yes. Most women with endometriosis could go for many years before they get it diagnosed and I would say that if you're having symptoms, it's better to get looked at sooner than wait.

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