Making the Endometriosis Diagnosis

An accurate diagnosis and proper medical treatment is essential for endometriosis, a common cause of infertility. Without a proper diagnosis, women can suffer unnecessarily with the chronic pain, heavy bleeding and other symptoms of endometriosis.

The right diagnosis
Getting a proper diagnosis is the only way to treat endometriosis. Many health conditions can mimic endometriosis symptoms. For instance, some women with endometriosis are misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) when they have symptoms of intestinal pain, rectal pain, diarrhea, and constipation during their period.

Know your medical history
To make an accurate diagnosis, your doctor will take your medical and family history, discuss your symptoms, and do a complete physical examination. At this time, be ready to talk about the following problems with your physician:

  • Frequency of vaginal or yeast infections
  • Occurrence of heavy bleeding during menstrual periods
  • History of allergies and asthma
  • Known chemical sensitivities or exposure to dioxins, a byproduct of chemical waste, burning waste and pesticides, which is linked to an increased risk of endometriosis.
  • Pelvic pain before, during and after during your period (unrelated to appendix pain)
  • Rectal pain with a bowel movement or pain during urination 
  • Pain with sexual activity

Also, let your doctor know if your mother took diethylstilbestrol (DES) when she was pregnant. Experts claim that DES may increase the chance of endometriosis by 5 percent.  

Diagnostic tests for endometriosis
After taking your medical and family history, your doctor may use one or more of the following tests to make a definitive medical diagnosis:

  • Pelvic exam. During a pelvic exam, your doctor will manually check for any atypical scar tissue and for large cysts that may surround the uterus.
  • Vaginal ultrasound. Your doctor will use a vaginal ultrasound to check for smaller cysts that cannot be felt manually during the pelvic exam.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan. Using the MRI and/or CT scans, your doctor can discover endometrial tissue that is growing outside of the uterus (called endometriomas).
  • Blood tests. For women in the advanced stages of endometriosis, the doctor may test for elevated levels of a certain protein in the blood called CA 125. (For women in mild to moderate stages of this disease, testing for this protein is not effective.)
  • Laparoscopy. To make the definitive diagnosis of endometriosis, your doctor may use laparoscopy, a minor surgery that requires general anesthesia. With laparoscopy, your doctor will look through a thin, lighted tube that is inserted into a small cut in your abdomen. Endometrial tissue and lesions will probably be visible during laparoscopy. If so, the doctor will extract samples of this tissue for further examination under a microscope before making a diagnosis and prescribing treatment.

Talk with your doctor today
The sooner you talk to your doctor or a fertility specialist about your endometriosis symptoms, the faster your doctor can diagnose this problem. With the proper medical treatment, you’ll soon be on your way to feeling better, getting pregnant and having a baby.

Ask a doctor in your area about endometriosis

This content is Copyright The American Fertility Association (AFA) 2010. This content is intended for personal use and may not be distributed or reproduced without AFA consent. Please contact info@theafa.org or visit theafa.org for more information.

 

Sources
  • Endometriosis Research Center 
  • Medscape.com: Diagnosis of Endometriosis: Imaging Techniques
  • Womenshealth.gov: Endometriosis Frequently Asked Questions
  • AmericanPregnancy.org: Endometriosis