More than 13 million women in the United States are known to suffer from endometriosis, a disease for which we provide diagnosis and treatment at our Chicago-area fertility centers.
Endometriosis is characterized by the growth of the uterine lining (endometrium) outside of the uterus. The uterine endometrium during the first half of the menstrual cycle increases in thickness and, during the second half, acquires a spongy-like consistency to facilitate embryo implantation. If there is no pregnancy, the uterine endometrium sheds, along with the menstrual blood, during the menstrual period. With endometriosis, the same cyclic changes that would typically only occur within the uterus now also occur outside the uterus, which can cause bleeding into the abdomen or other organs, inflammatory reaction, development of adhesions (scar tissue), or ovarian cysts (endometriomas).
The cyclic changes associated with endometriosis described above are responsible for symptoms of the disease, which include:
- Painful menstrual periods
- Pain during or after urination
- Pelvic pain unrelated to menstruation
- Heavy, prolonged menstrual periods
- Pain during and after sexual intercourse
- Pain during or after bowel movements
The frequency and intensity of these symptoms vary, and there is no direct relationship between the symptoms and the severity of endometriosis. Some women with advanced endometriosis have few, if any, symptoms; others have severe symptoms with only minor endometriosis. The intensity of symptoms is most likely related to the local inflammatory reaction and production of substances, such as prostaglandins and cytokines, by the endometriotic cells and cells of the immune system.
At the Reproductive Medicine Institute, our objective is to help you select the treatment option that is most appropriate for you. Our overall goal is to remove or suppress endometriosis, to delay its recurrence, to control its progression, and to address its symptoms — all without adversely affecting your fertility or exposing you to undesirable side effects. We recognize that different women may respond differently to the same treatment, and indeed, there is no one treatment that would be effective in all women.
For more information on Endometriosis:
The Institute for the Study and Treatment of Endometriosis
The Institute for the Study and Treatment of Endometriosis works in conjunction with The Reproductive Medicine Institute and conducts research and clinical trials on the disease.
If you are experiencing moderate to severe pain due to Endometriosis, you may qualify for a research study to test the effectiveness of an investigational medication for the management of endometriosis related pain. We have several ongoing clinical research projects , and also frequently have new medications for clinical trials before they become available to the public. Such clinical studies may be provided at no charge to you, and you may be eligible to receive compensation for your time and participation.
For more information, please contact us today to schedule a personal consultation to discuss endometriosis at one of fertility centers in the Chicago area or contact Donna Lanni at 630.954.3636. Please know that any information you provide will be confidential to ensure your privacy.
Diagnosis of Endometriosis
Based on characteristic symptoms, physical examination findings, and/or changes on pelvic ultrasound, CT scans, or x-rays, endometriosis may be suspected. However, other diseases may present similar findings, and the only way to diagnose endometriosis is through a surgical procedure called a laparoscopy or laparotomy.
Not every lesion having a visual appearance of endometriosis is actually endometriotic, therefore your laparoscopic surgeon will take a biopsy for confirmation, as diagnosis needs to be confirmed by both biopsy and microscopic examination of the tissue. Your physician will also likely assign a score for the size, depth, and location of endometriotic lesions. This is the basis for classifying endometriosis as Stage I, II, III, or IV - with Stage I being minimal and Stage IV being the most advanced.
Endometriosis is a progressive disease which impairs fertility, tends to recur after treatments, and lasts as long as there is ovarian function. After menopause, endometriosis will subside. Prompt, definitive endometriosis diagnosis and staging at our Chicago, Illinois fertility centers are extremely important for lifelong treatment, prevention of recurrence, and family planning.
Treatment of Endometriosis
Laparoscopy is a minor surgical procedure performed under anesthesia on an outpatient basis. An experienced laparoscopic surgeon should be able to resect or destroy endometriotic lesions with the use of electrical current or laser at the time of laparoscopy. Alternative treatments include various types of hormonal medications, the purpose of which is to suppress ovarian function and to stop menstrual cycles.
The choice of endometriosis treatment depends on several factors, including:
- The Woman's age
- Severity of symptoms
- Fertility status
- Stage of the disease
- Prior treatments (if any) and treatment response and side effects (if any)
These factors along with patient-specific indications and contraindications, advantages and disadvantages, and risks and benefits of each treatment option need to be thoroughly discussed and considered prior to treatment selection. At The Reproductive Medicine Institute, we will work to ensure that you have a true understanding of the disease along with all of your available treatment options before any decisions are made.