In the previous post, we touched the basics of endometriosis the causes and symptoms; in this concluding part, we will be looking at the diagnosis and treatment options available.
HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?
There are various ways by which this disease can be diagnosed, it all begins with a visit to your doctor
1. Pelvic Exam
Your doctor will do a pelvic exam to check your ovaries, uterus, and cervix for anything unusual. An exam can sometimes reveal an ovarian cyst or internal scarring that may be due to endometriosis. The doctor also looks for other pelvic conditions that could cause symptoms similar to endometriosis.
2. Pelvic Scans
Although it isn’t possible to confirm endometriosis with scanning techniques alone, your doctor may order an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI to help with diagnosis. These may be able to detect larger endometrial growths or cysts. The scans use sound waves, X-rays, or magnetic fields with radiofrequency pulses to create the images.
Laparoscopy is the only sure way to determine if you have endometriosis. A surgeon inflates the abdomen with gas through a small incision in the navel.
The surgeon can take small pieces of tissue for a lab to examine — called a biopsy — to confirm the diagnosis.
HOW IS IT TREATED?
- Pain Medications
Pain medications, such as acetaminophen, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen or naproxen, often help relieve the pain and cramping that comes with endometriosis. These drugs however, only treat the symptoms and not the underlying endometriosis.
2. Birth Control Pills
Oral contraceptives manage levels of estrogen and progestin, which make your menstrual periods shorter and lighter,this often eases the pain of endometriosis.
Your doctor may prescribe pills to be taken continuously, with no breaks for a menstrual period, or progestin-only therapy. Progestin-only therapy can also be given by injection.
Endometriosis symptoms may return after you stop taking the pills.
3. Other Hormone Therapies
These drugs mimic menopause, getting rid of periods along with endometriosis symptoms. They can cause hot flashes, vaginal dryness, fatigue, mood changes, and bone loss. Danocrine works mainly by lowering estrogen. Side effects can include weight gain, smaller breasts, acne, facial hair, voice and mood changes, and birth defects.
During a laparoscopy, the surgeon may remove visible endometrial growths or adhesions. Most women experience immediate pain relief.
5. Open Surgery
Severe cases of endometriosis may require laparotomy, or open abdominal surgery, to remove growths, or a hysterectomy — removal of the uterus and possibly all or part of the ovaries. Although this treatment has a high success rate, endometriosis still recurs for about 15% of women who had their uterus and ovaries removed.
HOW DO I LIVE WITH ENDOMETRIOSIS?
Although there is no way to prevent endometriosis, you can make lifestyle choices that will help you feel better. Regular exercise may help relieve pain by improving your blood flow and boosting endorphins, the body’s natural pain relievers.
IS THERE AN END TO THIS DISEASE?
There is no cure for endometriosis yet. However, for most women, endometriosis recedes with menopause. Some women find relief from endometriosis during pregnancy. In some cases, symptoms may simply go away. About one-third of women with mild endometriosis will find that their symptoms resolve on their own.
Decrease your risk of infecting yourself or others:
- Wash your hands often. This is especially important before and after preparing food, before eating and after using the toilet.
- Get vaccinated. Immunization can drastically reduce your chances of contracting many diseases. Keep your recommended vaccinations up-to-date.
- Use antibiotics sensibly. Take antibiotics only when prescribed. Unless otherwise directed, or unless you are allergic to them, take all prescribed doses of your antibiotic, even if you begin to feel better before you have completed the medication.
- Stay at home if you have signs and symptoms of an infection. Don’t go to work or class if you’re vomiting, have diarrhea or are running a fever.
- Be smart about food preparation. Keep counters and other kitchen surfaces clean when preparing meals. In addition, promptly refrigerate leftovers. Don’t let cooked foods remain at room temperature for an extended period of time.
- Disinfect the ‘hot zones’ in your residence. These include the kitchen and bathroom — two rooms that can have a high concentration of bacteria and other infectious agents.
- Practice safer sex. Use condoms. Get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and have your partner get tested— or, abstain altogether.
- Don’t share personal items. Use your own toothbrush, comb or razor blade. Avoid sharing drinking glasses or dining utensils.
- Travel wisely. Don’t fly when you’re ill. With so many people confined to such a small area, you may infect other passengers in the plane. And your trip won’t be comfortable, either. Depending on where your travels take you, talk to your doctor about any special immunizations you may need.
With a little common sense and the proper precautions, you can avoid infectious diseases and avoid spreading them.