It's Endometriosis Awareness Month: What you need to know about the disease

By Oriana Ortiz - Producer

SAN ANTONIO - March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. KSAT spoke with Dr. Jennifer Knudtson, a reproductive endocrinologist from UT Health San Antonio, to find out more about the disease.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a condition that affects millions of American women.

It happens when a woman's period tissue goes back through the fallopian tubes and sticks inside her abdomen. Every month, when the woman gets her period, that tissue then causes pain.

Knudtson says the pain often disguises itself as cramps.

What are some of the symptoms of endometriosis?

  • Painful periods
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Infertility

How is endometriosis diagnosed?

Knudtson says the best diagnosis is surgery. However, she says depending on the patient's symptoms, doctors can have clinical suspicions for endometriosis and treat it based on that.

How is endometriosis treated?

Knudtson says treatment varies from patient to patient and is often trial and error.

Oftentimes, the first step is trying birth control pills. Doctors may also try other estrogen- or progesterone-based medications.

Doctors can also treat endometriosis during surgery by removing or burning the lesions.

If the patient has a cyst attached to the ovary, doctors may have to remove the entire ovary.

When should women seek treatment?

Knudtson says if women are having very painful periods and/or having difficulty getting pregnant, they should go see a physician.

Does endometriosis have a cure?

No. Most treatments suppress endometriosis, but they don't cure it, according to Knudtson.

Why is endometriosis awareness important?

Studies show most women wait eight to 10 years to seek treatment.

Knudtson says this is because no one is really talking about endometriosis and most women don't like to talk about their period.

She says awareness can start a conversation that can help a lot of women get treatment and feel better. 

What's next in endometriosis research?

Researchers at UT Health San Antonio are looking into why some women get endometriosis and other don't. 

This could help doctors find better treatment plans and possibly a cure, according to Knudtson

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