Endometriosis is a gynecologic disease where tissue similar to endometrium, or uterine lining, is found outside the uterus. It can lead to organ dysfunction, scarring and infertility. It’s a leading cause of chronic pelvic pain. More than just painful periods, endometriosis can include abdominal and pelvic pain throughout the month (not just before or during menstruation), painful intercourse, bowel and bladder symptoms, back pain and fatigue.
Due to these varied symptoms, lack of awareness and perhaps gender bias, it takes an average of eight doctors and 10 years to properly diagnose the disease.
"We need to do more research and to come up with a simple screening blood test to avoid long delays in diagnosing,” said Dr. Barbara Diakos, director of the Endometriosis and Fibroid Care Program at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital. “Until that happens we as gynecologists need to spend more time with our patients at their annual visit and ask the proper questions. We have many pharmacologic options currently but many have severe side effects and don't effectively treat the disease.”
“With better visualization and safer excision instruments, we can remove endometriosis in a thorough manner,” said Dr. Diakos, who is also a clinical instructor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Laparotomy or large abdominal incisions need to be a thing of the past since laparoscopic surgery can provide effective treatment with less pain and a shorter recover time.”
Dr. Diakos’ one piece of advice?
“If any family member or friend you know has ever had to miss school, miss work, visited an emergency room for period pain or needed a narcotic for pelvic pain, please tell them it may be endometriosis and help does exist,” she said. “No woman should ever be told it is normal, or part of being a woman, or dismissed.”
To learn more about the Endometriosis and Fibroid Care Program at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, or to make an appointment, call (847) 535-7057.