Do You Suffer From Debilitating Period Pain? You Could Have Endometriosis

By Tamer Seckin, MD, Gynecologic Surgeon, as told to writer Lauren Urban

This story originally appeared on The Well by Northwell

When I was studying medicine in the late 1980s, almost all women who complained of pelvic pain were given a general diagnosis of some kind of infection, such as a sexually transmitted disease. Something told me this was very wrong. As I gained more experience as a surgeon, I felt comfortable exploring the issue on my own, and what I discovered shocked me. Many of these patients had lesions that didn’t indicate an infection at all—rather it was endometriosis, a condition in which uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus, causing pain.
From then on, I made it my mission to help women get a proper diagnosis and treatment—and I’ve spent the past 25 years dedicated exclusively to endometriosis. While progress has been made, endometriosis is still grossly misunderstood and misdiagnosed. Considering the fact that it affects as many as 15 percents of all women, it’s crucial to shed light on this disease.

Here are 5 things you probably don’t know about endometriosis:

1. Many people (including some doctors) are uninformed about endometriosis.


Despite the staggering statistics, many people don’t know about endometriosis. Why? From a social standpoint, menstruation is often considered taboo. For this reason, women often don’t talk about it. In addition, the medical community doesn’t give endometriosis the attention it deserves, so many doctors have little to no knowledge of or training in it. Thus, when a woman complains of pelvic pain, doctors often misdiagnose her and/or simply prescribe pain medication.

2. It’s important to recognize the symptoms.


Because many doctors don’t know a lot about endometriosis, it’s crucial to be on the lookout for warning signs in your own body. One of the main symptoms is prolonged bleeding with periods, along with significant cramps that last beyond two days and are not alleviated with over-the-counter pain medication. In addition, your odds of having endometriosis are even higher if you also experience gastrointestinal symptoms like abdominal discomfort, intestinal cramps, gas, bloating, constipation, or painful bowel movements; these are all very frequent signs of endometriosis, especially if these symptoms overlap and flare up during your period. Unfortunately, women with these complaints are commonly misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)—but endometriosis should be considered if painful periods are also present. A third symptom may be infertility. Many women who have difficulty getting pregnant don’t know they have endometriosis. In these cases, they go to fertility clinics for help and are unsuccessful, not realizing what they actually need to do to get pregnant is treat their endometriosis.

3. It’s key to get help soon.


If you suspect that you might have endometriosis, it’s important to be proactive and see a specialist right away because symptoms worsen over time if left untreated. For example, instead of just having a painful period for a few days of the month, you may start experiencing weeks of painful ovulation, painful intimacy, infertility, and other systemic challenges. In about 75 percent of cases, endometriosis starts during the adolescent years, with the very first period. Many times, patients come to me very late in the game, sometimes 10 years after their first period, and the disease has advanced. Early detection and treatment could stop the progression of endometriosis and help so many women avoid unnecessary pain and complications, and improve their quality of life.

4. Endometriosis is highly treatable—with the right doctor.


If you are diagnosed with endometriosis, stay calm and know that there is help out there. Going on birth control might be enough to make your period lighter and shorter, which may ease your symptoms. If this doesn’t work, surgery may be necessary. Different doctors use various surgical techniques, but to me, excision of the excess tissue through surgery is the gold standard. The purpose of this surgery is to thoroughly remove all of the lesions (the sources of pain) at once in order to avoid the need for repeat surgeries.
Research your doctor carefully, and read up about endometriosis so that you can ask questions and be involved in the diagnosis and treatment process. It’s important to choose a doctor who is not only highly skilled at treating this disease, but who will also be compassionate and listen to your complaints very carefully. It’s also important that the doctor has access to a multidisciplinary team of specialists, such as gastroenterologists and urologists since endometriosis can affect many organs in the body and requires a collaborative approach to treatment.

 

5. We can all help raise awareness.

Some celebrities—such as Padma Lakshmi, Lena Dunham, and Julianne Hough—have decided to share their stories of having endometriosis. I think it’s very selfless of them to use their platform to speak about such an important issue and to help others who are struggling. But we still need more awareness. And we can start by educating ourselves about endometriosis and looking out for the signs—not just in ourselves but also in our daughters, nieces, sisters, and friends. Together we can help so many women combat this treatable disease.

 

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You may call us at 212-988-1444 or have your case reviewed by clicking here.

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  • Rebecca Black

    Fast forward 5 years to find out incidentally I had a failing kidney. My left kidney was only functioning at 18%. During this time, I was preparing all my documents to send to Dr. Seckin to review. However, with this new information I put everything on hold and went to a urologist. After a few months, no one could figure…

  • Monique Roberts

    I'll never stop praising Dr. Seckin and his team. He literally gave me back my life.

  • Erin Brehm

    I had a wonderful experience working with Dr. Seckin and his team before, during and after my surgery. I came to Dr. Seckin having already had laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis 5 years prior, with a different surgeon. My symptoms and pain had returned, making my life truly challenging and my menstrual cycle unbearable. Dr. Seckin was quick to validate my…

  • Anita Schillhorn

    I came to Dr. Seckin after years of dealing with endometriosis and doctors who didn't fully understand the disease. He quickly ascertained what needed to be done, laid out the options along with his recommendation and gave me the time to make the right decision for me. My surgery went without a hitch and I'm healing very well. He and…

  • Nicholette Sadé

    Dr. Seckin brought me back to life! I am now 3 weeks into my recovery after my laparoscopy surgery, and I feel like a new and improved woman! Being diagnosed with Endometriosis, then 25yrs old in 2015, and discovering the severity of my case being stage 4, made me devastated. Dr. Seckin's vast knowledge of the disease, sincere empathy, and…

  • Jason Curry

    My wife had her laparoscopic excision surgery to remove endometriosis with Dr. Seckin on Jan 30, 2014. She doesn't write online reviews so I'm writing this on her behalf. I accompanied her with each office visit she had. The staff--Lucy and Kim, are very friendly, warm and professional. Dr. Seckin was excellent in every capacity. He spent a lot of…

  • Liz Filippelli

    He is an awesome doctor who saved my daughters life from debilitating endometriosis..she knew instantly upon awaking from surgery that she was better..that wad May and no complaints only praises for Dr. Wonderful Seckin!!

  • Karen N

    I was diagnosed with Endometriosis at 19. I saw several Endometriosis "Specialists" since then, had a few laproscopic surgeries to "remove" the endometriosis and continued to be in pain. I had a hysterectomy in 2012 and was told this would stop the pain once and for all. No such luck! Tired of spending days in bed with a heating pad,…

  • Lauren Rodriguez

    I researched and found Dr. Seckin after dealing with years of doctors who couldn't help me or refused to go the extra mile for their patients. I have to say I am truly blessed to have found such a compassionate and talented doctor. He is exquisite with everything he does, and both his team at the office and surgical team…

  • Kellya Vespa

    Dr. Seckin is a very skilled surgeon. There are not many doctors like him that truly understand the effects of endometriosis. I am lucky to have found him. The staff is wonderful too.

  • Meg Connolly

    Dr. Seckin truly LOVES what he does and cares about his patients from the bottom of his heart. My life has already changed in 3 weeks and I couldn’t be more grateful. Should I ever need another operation for endometriosis, Dr. Seckin will be the one to do it. I recommend him to anyone I come across with similar problems…

  • Elisandra O

    Dr. Seckin is an amazing Doctor he is very compassionate, caring and he will be honest with you. He's been my doctor for 19yrs and I am so grateful to have someone taking care of me that knows what he is doing and knows the best way to treat each and every situation. I would definitely recommend him and his…