An estimated 90 million women worldwide will suffer from endometriosis over their lifetimes. This condition impacts 10 to 15 percent of women during their childbearing years. Women with this disease can develop a wide range of symptoms such as pain, irregular cycles, infertility, and heavy periods. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your physician to schedule a thorough evaluation.
The degree of discomfort and level of disease varies from patient to patient. As well, some women have few symptoms but a severe case of endometriosis, while others have intense symptoms but a milder stage of the disease. Difficult to identify, endometriosis usually requires surgery for accurate diagnosis.
Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue, which belongs in the uterus, ends up in other parts of the body. Because it still tries to shed as if it were in the uterus, the extra tissue can cause problems. Common areas for endometrial tissue to adhere to include the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, bowel, and rectum. Your physician can conduct an examination to look for signs of endometriosis, but this step alone is not enough. For an accurate diagnosis and to identify how far the disease has progressed, your doctor may recommend performing laparoscopic surgery.
Usually, doctors classify endometriosis into stages:
If you receive a Stage 1 diagnosis of endometriosis, the disease is present, but has not progressed. Doctors generally assign a score of 1 to 5 points, indicating very little tissue growth outside the uterus.
With Stage 2 endometriosis, patients usually receive a score of 6 to 15 points, and the level is considered mild, with several growth areas as well as some scar tissue or adhesions.
At Stage 3, physicians consider endometriosis moderate, and the patient score falls between 16 to 40 points. Typically, this level of disease produces areas with deep implants and prominent adhesions and/or scarring. Patients at this stage often present with the symptoms associated with endometriosis.
Considered the most advanced stage of endometriosis, Stage 4 patients score over 40 points and exhibit deep areas of tissue growth as well as large adhesions. Stage 4 endometriosis frequently causes problems with conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term.
Once your doctor identifies the level of endometriosis you are dealing with, he or she will review your options and discuss a treatment plan. Therapy for this disease may include birth control pills, hormone treatment, surgery, pain management, or a combination of these options. If you are trying to conceive, your physician will work with you to find treatment that maximizes your chances of achieving pregnancy.
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