Evaluating Endometriosis: March 23, 2011

No known cause. No known cure. Gynecologic surgeons like Dr. Timothy Hughes rely on symptoms, patient information, and various testing methods when it comes to evaluating endometriosis. "A physician asking the right questions and really kind of knowing what to look for, we can gain a lot of incident and clues that will lead us in the right direction just with that first interview," says Dr. Hughes, a gynecologist with Lee Memorial Health System.

Along with thorough questioning, comes a thorough exam. "Pelvic exams is obviously very important because there is some items that we look for during pelvic examination and abdominal examination that tend to lead one to suspect endometriosis."

During the examination process, Dr. Hughes will look for abnormal tissue growth. Some of this growth can develop outside of the uterine cavity, along the pelvic sidewalls, even around the ovaries. "Interestingly, the diagnosis is actually made surgically because for a physician to actually be able to definitively make the diagnosis of endometriosis, we have to be able to demonstrate the endometrial glands or the endometrial tissue outside of that cavity, i.e within the pelvis."

This is done through a laparoscopic procedure. Catching this condition early is key to treatment. "Women should generally seek a gynecologist's advice or evaluation if her pain with her mencees is excessive, if they notice the pain prior to the onset of their mencees or if the pain is requiring an inordinate amount of over-the-counter medications."

Since there is no known cure, Dr. Hughes will prescribe certain drugs and medications to help alleviate the pain that comes with endometriosis. In some cases, a hysterectomy may be required.