Monthly Archives: April 2017

What Is Endometriosis - Arizona Gynecology Consultants

What Is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a uterine condition affecting millions of women of all ages. Women with endometriosis experience a wide range of symptoms, and it’s crucial to understand this condition’s effects on a woman’s body.

Some women with endometriosis can manage the symptoms with simple treatments like hormone therapy or birth control, while others may require surgery. About 30 to 40 percent of women with endometriosis experience infertility because of the condition.

What Is Endometriosis?

The endometrium is the tissue that lines the walls of the uterus, and endometriosis is a condition that affects these tissues. A woman with endometriosis will start accumulating endometrium tissue outside the uterus, usually inside the abdominal cavity.

Unfortunately, the tissues outside the uterus still respond to the menstrual cycle the same as the tissues inside the uterus. Once a period begins, these tissues will break apart and bleed. While the endometrium tissues inside the uterus can exit through the cervix, the tissues outside the uterus have nowhere to go.

Symptoms and Severity

The endometrium tissues that dissolve and bleed in the abdominal cavity will aggravate the other tissues around the uterus and cause inflammation, swelling and severe cramping pains. Doctors refer to the tissues scarred by endometrium tissues as nodules, implants, growths or lesions.

Most commonly, endometriosis affects:

  • Ovaries
  • Fallopian tubes
  • Ligaments supporting the uterus
  • The area between the uterus and the rectum
  • The outside of the uterus
  • The lining of the pelvic cavity

In rare cases, endometrium tissues can accumulate in the intestines, anus, bladder, cervix, vagina or vulva. In extremely rare cases, doctors have located endometrium tissues in patients’ thighs, arms and lungs.

Endometriosis is a progressive condition that may not manifest noticeable symptoms until many years after menstrual periods begin. Each cycle causes more endometrium accumulation. Over the years, the endometrium implants grow and affect more tissues. Menopause generally causes the symptoms of endometriosis to subside and the implants to deteriorate.

The early symptoms of endometriosis typically include more significant:

  • Menstrual cramping
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse

Endometrium implants can cause irritation that can progress into infections, abscesses or areas of the body that are tender to the touch. If endometriosis affects the tissues of the intestines or bladder, it can cause urinary or intestinal pains as well.

Diagnosing Endometriosis Cases

Doctors categorize endometriosis cases based on:

  • The amount of tissue accumulation
  • The location of those tissues
  • The severity of the patient’s symptoms

Small, isolated endometrium implants would be mild endometriosis, while more significant lesions would be moderate to severe endometriosis. More severe cases of endometriosis will also create more scar tissue.

A doctor will need to review a patient’s entire gynecological history to properly diagnose endometriosis. The doctor must also perform a full physical examination and a pelvic examination.

After those steps, a positive diagnosis is possible with a laparoscopic procedure. During this procedure, the doctor inserts a laparoscopic surgical instrument through a small abdominal incision to view the internal organs and locate endometrium implants.

Treatment Options for Endometriosis

Doctors suggest simple pain medications such as ibuprofen for mild cases of endometriosis. For other patients, hormone suppressants can be an effective solution with the added benefit of preventing pregnancy, if desired. Some women opt for temporary hormone suppression therapy, so they can attempt to conceive afterward.

Hormone treatment is very effective for small, isolated endometrium implants. Oral contraceptives that contain estrogen and progestin or synthetic progestin pills can provide relief in some cases.

Other women may require more robust treatments with synthetic pituitary blockers or gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists. These medications block hormones from the pituitary gland that contribute to the menstrual cycle. While these monthly injections are effective for some women, they also cause bone mineral loss.

Surgical Options

Some women with severe endometriosis will require surgery for relief. In these cases, surgeons will try to remove as much of the endometrium implants as possible without risking damage to the surrounding tissues.

Some surgeons opt for laparoscopic laser removal, which involves cauterizing or vaporizing sections of endometrium tissues with minimal invasiveness. Laparoscopic procedures also have shorter recovery times than typical abdominal surgeries.

For extremely advanced cases, more drastic surgical options may be the only solution. A hysterectomy or ovary removal may be required to stop the symptoms of endometriosis.

It’s vital for any woman considering any level of surgery to discuss the issue at length with her doctor. A surgical procedure of any type can lead to permanent hormone irregularities or infertility, so learn the risks beforehand.

Take Control of Your Uterine Health

Keeping close tabs on your menstrual cycles and uterine health are important at any age. Every endometriosis case is different, but any case is manageable with early detection, symptom management and careful screening. The providers who work with Arizona Gynecology Consultants can handle any aspect of gynecological care, so contact us today if you would like more information about endometriosis or treatment options.

What Is Abnormal Uterine Bleeding - Arizona Gynecology Consultants

What Is Abnormal Uterine Bleeding?

No two women will have the exact same menstruation cycle, but when a woman’s period schedule falls outside of certain boundaries, physicians consider it abnormal.

Abnormal uterine bleeding may sometimes only cause inconsistency with a woman’s menstrual cycle, but other symptoms are also possible and can cause greater discomfort, such as excessive bleeding and cramping. Women should understand how to manage abnormal uterine bleeding and know the options for doing so.

Causes of Abnormal Uterine Bleeding

Almost all abnormal uterine bleeding cases happen because of hormone problems. The menstrual cycle revolves around different hormones in the bloodstream, so inconsistencies or irregularities with hormones can result in abnormal uterine bleeding.

A typical adult menstrual cycle is 21 to 35 days long, while a typical teen cycle is 21 to 45 days long. Each period generally lasts for four to six days. Women with inconsistent hormone levels may have periods more frequently or far less frequently.

Abnormal uterine bleeding can also occur when a woman doesn’t ovulate. During the menstrual cycle, one of the ovaries releases a mature egg in a process called ovulation. When a woman doesn’t ovulate, it throws off the hormone balance in the bloodstream and can cause sudden bleeding. Failure to ovulate can also be a sign of other uterine problems like fibroids or ovarian cysts.

Other uterine issues such as fibroids can cause excessive uterine bleeding, and some women may mistake a miscarriage for an abnormal uterine bleeding incident.

Doctors will perform a series of tests to determine the cause of the abnormal uterine bleeding and address it appropriately. Possible tests include:

  • Blood analysis
  • Pelvic examination
  • Ultrasound
  • Other imaging methods

In some cases, a doctor may insist on a biopsy to detect the presence of cancerous cells that may be causing abnormal uterine bleeding.

Symptoms

The first telltale sign of an abnormal uterine bleeding problem is the timing of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Periods happening fewer than 21 days apart or more than 35 days apart are abnormal.

Periods lasting more than seven days are another warning sign. If your menstrual schedule aligns with any of these variables, schedule a visit with your gynecologist as soon as possible.

Menstrual timing issues also present other problems. A woman who experiences period symptoms sooner than every 21 days must deal with menstrual cramping, fatigue and bleeding more often than a woman on a typical schedule.

Some women experience significant cramping and sudden heavy bleeding as the result of hormonal imbalance. Doctors typically define excessive bleeding as menstrual bleeding that produces blood clots or completely soaks through tampons or menstrual pads each hour for two hours or more at a time.

Women may experience sudden irregularities in their menstrual cycles that go away on their own relatively quickly. However, once abnormal uterine bleeding issue becomes a pattern, it can pose serious health problems. If you experience abnormal menstrual symptoms for three cycles in a row, contact your doctor.

Treating Abnormal Uterine Bleeding

Depending on the cause of the bleeding, a doctor may suggest one of several possible treatment methods. When hormone irregularities cause abnormal uterine bleeding, progestin pills or daily birth control pills can be helpful.

Some women receive birth control prescriptions simply to manage excessive bleeding and cramping. Some types of hormonal birth control can offset other uncomfortable menstrual symptoms as well. Balancing the hormone levels in the bloodstream helps regulate the menstrual cycle and keeps discomfort minimal.

Some women benefit from a short-term course of high doses of estrogen. This technique helps women who experience dangerously heavy bleeding.

A levonorgestrel IUD is another option, and this device releases a hormone similar to progesterone into the bloodstream. This type of IUD will limit menstrual bleeding and prevent pregnancy.

In rare cases, estrogen blockers can resolve abnormal uterine bleeding problems. Medications that stop menstruation and estrogen production can have significant side effects and are only acceptable methods of treatment in special cases. For women who suffer from endometriosis or other uterine conditions, surgery may be the only effective solution.

Regular Checkups and Screenings Are Important

A doctor may not be able to completely identify the cause of an abnormal uterine bleeding issue at first. In some cases, a wait-and-see approach is necessary to monitor a patient’s cycle and determine the best course of treatment. A doctor may recommend an anti-inflammatory medication to manage menstrual cramping and bleeding until the root cause is more discernible.

Very young women often experience irregularities with their menstrual cycle that stop after several cycles. Women in menopause should expect their periods to eventually stop entirely.

Contact your doctor if you have any concerns about your menstrual symptoms or schedule. Maintaining a regular schedule of checkups and screenings and verifying your concerns with your doctor are crucial.

Treatment at All Stages of Life

At Arizona Gynecology Consultants, we understand that women’s needs change from adolescence to retirement. Our providers are experienced in all aspects of gynecological health and focus on the needs of each individual patient.

Abnormal uterine bleeding is incredibly common and can happen for many reasons. The providers we work with can help identify the cause of an abnormal uterine bleeding problem and recommend an effective treatment.