Despite cutting-edge medical advances, gyno ailments often go unresolved (or worse, misdiagnosed). Here’s what you need to know about these vexing conditions.
By Stacey Colino, Women’s Health
Some mysteries, such as the Bermuda Triangle or the contents of a Twinkie, are fun to ponder. But trying to figure out why you’re doubled over with cramps or swapping out supersize tampons every hour? Not so much. Sadly, millions of women (and a whole lot of docs) are perplexed by pelvic problems. Learn how to help your physician spot and deal with the down-there maladies that affect women the most.
6.3 Million Suffer from Endometriosis
When Senie Byrne, 25, of Manassas, Virginia, was 15 her periods were accompanied by vomiting and cramps so bad she would often pass out from the pain. She went from doctor to doctor until finally, at age 21, she found out she had endometriosis, a uterine disease that can take a decade to diagnose.
When a woman has endometriosis, the uterine lining (the one you’re supposed to shed each month during your period) gets stuck elsewhere. It can travel down through your cervix and vagina, but also up through your fallopian tubes, where it can attach to your bowel, bladder, or ovaries. The latter path can disrupt hormonal cycles and lead to thick scarring, inflammation, and heavy bleeding during menstruation, says Tommaso Falcone, M.D., chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at the Cleveland Clinic. It can also result in killer cramps, painful sex, diarrhea, or constipation—or no aches at all.
“The peculiar thing is that the amount of pain you’re in may have no correlation to the amount of endometriosis you have,” says ob-gyn Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., of the Yale University School of Medicine.
But even pain-free patients are at risk of a troubling side effect: infertility. About 38 percent of infertile women can blame endometriosis, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, often because of scarring or inflammation. Endometrial tissue also releases fluid that can mess with egg-sperm interaction. The best way to preserve fertility is to catch and treat the problem early.