Merck Manuals Examines Three Signs that Pelvic Pain Could be Endometriosis

KENILWORTH, N.J., March 25, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Women suffering from endometriosis often withstand many years of pelvic pain before receiving an accurate diagnosis for their condition. The pain is usually indistinguishable from that caused by menstruation or urinary tract infections, and the condition can be difficult for physicians to diagnose without invasive testing.

Today, endometriosis affects between six and 10 percent of all women and three quarters of women with pelvic pain. Though the condition is not fatal, it can have serious consequences on quality of life and fertility. Greater awareness of the condition among women can lead to earlier diagnoses and more timely, targeted treatment.

During National Endometriosis Awareness Month, Dr. James Liu, MD, Professor and Chair in the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology in the UH Cleveland Medical Center at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, highlights three signs of endometriosis in a new editorial on 

1. If pain is worse just before, during, and after menstruation

Especially for women who develop endometriosis at a young age, it’s often assumed the pain is a result of their normal menstrual cycle. In fact, endometriosis pain often overlaps with menstrual pain. Bleeding inside and outside the uterus occurs at the same time.

But endometriosis pain often extends beyond the time of a woman’s menses. If a woman experiences pain before or after she experiences bleeding during her usual cycle, she should bring it up with her physician. Endometriosis can also cause pain during sexual intercourse and pain during bowel movements or urination, as well as the need to urinate more frequently. However, these types of pain are often caused by disorders other than endometriosis.

2. If antibiotics aren’t effective

Doctors may first suspect a woman with endometriosis has a urinary tract infection or pelvic inflammatory disease. They’ll prescribe antibiotics to clear up the infection and may order a culture of the urine or cervix. If the test results come back negative and antibiotics do not help, women – and their physicians – should consider endometriosis as a potential cause of their pain.

3. If a family member suffers from endometriosis

Women who have family members with endometriosis are more likely to have the disease. However, there’s currently no genetic test to diagnosis endometriosis.

But for women suffering from pelvic pain, family history can be a useful clue. If a woman’s mother, aunt, sister or cousin has endometriosis, she should tell her doctor in their initial conversations about her own pain.

Delays in endometriosis diagnosis can create real challenges for patients. Understanding and discussing these signs with a physician is a critical step in making sure endometriosis is considered as a potential cause of serious pelvic pain.

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