Eliminating Endometriosis Pain For Good
There is no cure for endometriosis, a condition where endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus. Certain treatments can help minimize symptoms, but pain often returns. A hysterectomy, or surgical removal of the uterus and endometrial tissue, is a more permanent solution.
In the US, at least 11% of women ages 15-44 have endometriosis. With this condition, the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, grows on or around other reproductive organs. The fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterine ligaments, and pelvic cavity lining are commonly affected. More rarely, endometriosis can affect the bladder, cervix, and rectum. Women with endometriosis often report painful menstrual cramps, heavy or irregular periods, pain during sex, fatigue, spotting between periods, and infertility.
Women with endometriosis may initially be offered hormone therapy to lower estrogen levels and slow the growth of the endometrium. Birth control and hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs) are most commonly recommended. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can also help with painful menstrual cramps. Laparoscopic surgery is an approach that uses small tools to remove endometrial tissue or heat to destroy the tissue. If such treatments aren’t effective, a hysterectomy may be recommended.
1. Is pregnancy possible?
A hysterectomy is a permanent form of birth control. This means women who have the surgery done will not be able to have any future children. A surrogate and adoption are still options, but most women wait to have a hysterectomy performed until family building is complete.
2. Is the procedure painful?
Hysterectomy is a major surgery lasting 1-3 hours. Depending on the type of hysterectomy performed, an overnight stay in the hospital may be required. Women will feel some pain and discomfort upon waking up from surgery, but pain medication can help. Bruising, swelling, and pain or numbness at the incision site can all occur. If the ovaries are also removed during the hysterectomy, women can experience symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes.
3. Any post-surgery restrictions?
Recovery usually takes anywhere from 4-6 weeks. Patients are generally advised to avoid heavy lifting, driving, and having sex for some time. Exercise and returning to work can typically be resumed within a few weeks. Ask the doctor for a complete recovery timeline ahead of surgery so appropriate plans can be made.
4. Can surgery cure endometriosis?
There is, unfortunately, no cure for endometriosis, but a hysterectomy can offer significant pain relief. All excess endometrial tissue must be removed during the procedure, or regrowth and recurrence of the condition can occur.
Although a hysterectomy is often the last option for women with endometriosis, many people who have the procedure done report significant pain relief. Make an informed decision about surgery by asking the doctor the above questions. When removing a major organ like the uterus, the more knowledge a patient has about what to expect, the better.