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

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.

 

Our office is located on 872 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10065.
You may call us at 212-988-1444 or have your case reviewed by clicking here.

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    I have struggled with endometriosis and adenomyosis since first starting my period at 13. I was diagnosed at 21 and what followed was a series of unsuccessful surgeries and treatments. My case was very aggressive and involved my urinary tract system and my intestines. After exhausting all of my local doctors I was lucky enough to find Dr. Seckin. We…

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    Like so many women who have tirelessly sought a correct diagnosis and proper, thorough medical treatment for endometriosis, I found myself 26 years into this unwanted journey without clear answers or help from four previous gynecological doctors and two emergency laparoscopic surgeries. I desperately wanted to avoid the ER again; a CT scan for appendicitis also revealed a likely endometrioma…

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    Dr. Seckin and Dr. Goldstein radically changed my quality of life. They treat their patients with dignity & respect that I've personally never seen in the literally 25+ doctors I've seen for endometriosis. This summer, I had a surgery with Dr. Seckin & Goldstein. It was my first with them, but my 5th endo surgery. I couldn't believe the difference,…

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    Dr. Seckin is one of the best endometriosis surgeon. Every time I go to the office, he really listens to me and is always concerned about my issues. Dr Seckin's office staff are a delight and they always work with me. I feel I can leave everything to them and they will take care of it. Thank you to the…

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    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…

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    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…

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    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…

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