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UPMC Gynecologist: Understanding Endometriosis

Cramps and uncomfortableness are considered as a normal part of every menstruating person’s life. However, some people experience debilitating pain that leaves them unable to function for one week every month. When this happens, among other symptoms, a diagnosis of endometriosis might be in order. It’s time to talk openly about a condition that affects one in 10 women.
What is Endometriosis?

During a menstrual cycle, tissues that line the uterus shred and exit through the vagina. These tissues, called endometrium, grow outside the uterus for those that experience endometriosis. This means that the tissue has no way to exit the body, becomes trapped, and causes other problems like the formation of cysts, irritation of surrounding tissues that may develop into scar tissue, and abnormal bands of fibrous tissues that could cause pelvic organs and tissues to stick together.
Symptoms of endometriosis may include:
– Unbearably painful menstrual cramps
– Chronic lower back and intestinal pain
– Digestive problems especially during your period
– Bleeding or spotting between periods
– Pain during or after sex
– Infertility

Each person’s journey with endometriosis is different due to varying symptoms. For most, emotional challenges are just as present as the physical challenges.
Supporting Someone with Endometriosis

If your loved one has endometriosis, it’s important that they get the support they need. While it’s a fairly common condition, it is often misunderstood. The following tips may be helpful in providing aid and comfort:

Be Flexible – Physical and emotional feelings can change from day-to-day when coping with endometriosis. It’s important to remain respectful throughout these changes as social plans or commitments may need to be altered.

Don’t Shut Down Communication – Some people are open to sharing about what they are going through while others wish to keep their journey more private. Either way, do your best to check in occasionally to see if you can offer support in some way.

Avoid Unwanted Guidance – While you may have good intentions, it’s best for medical experts to give advice. What helps one person may not help the other and offering the wrong information may lead to minimizing that person’s experience with endometriosis. Lead with empathy.

Learn More About Endometriosis – Educate yourself about endometriosis. By trying to understand the symptoms, you’re showing that you care about what your loved one is going through. If they are up for it, ask to attend a doctor’s appointment to get a better understanding of the challenges they face. Support groups for endometriosis may also be available to attend.
Treatment Options

Usually, over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, birth control for hormone therapy, and other drugs that stop the production of estrogen can help with endometriosis pain. Other times, surgery to remove abnormal tissues may be appropriate.

No matter what is in store for endometriosis treatment, your team of doctors will provide the best plan available for your personal case. If you think you may have endometriosis or are experiencing pain that is affecting your everyday life, do not hesitate to reach out to a medical provider for help.

by Angela Huggler, M.D.
UPMC Magee-Womens

Angela Huggler, M.D., is with UPMC Magee-Womens and sees patients at the UPMC Health Innovation Center, 740 High St., Williamsport, and the UPMC Outpatient Center, 2370 Turnpike Rd., Lewisburg. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Huggler at either location, call 570-321-3300. For more information, visit