Frequently Asked Questions
Answering your most common questions
Endometriosis is one of the most common causes of life-altering pelvic pain in women. Affecting roughly 10% of reproductive-age women across the world, this chronic disease is common yet underdiagnosed. Many women either have their symptoms dismissed or don’t realize that treatment is available. Endometriosis occurs when the same type of tissue that lines the inside of the uterus also grows on the outside, becoming what are known as endometrial implants.
It is possible for some women to have endometriosis without chronic pelvic pain; however, many women experience endometriosis as a chronic disease that not only causes severe pain but fertility issues as well. It often takes years for endometriosis to be diagnosed because it is not a one-size-fits-all issue, with many women experiencing symptoms differently.
Currently, there is no cure for endometriosis. But many effective treatment options are available to relieve the chronic symptoms. Researching information and consulting a supportive, experienced doctor helps.
You should never have to suffer through pelvic pain, and you deserve to have your questions about endometriosis answered thoroughly. We’ve talked about the basics of endometriosis before, and now we’re here to answer your most frequently asked questions about this common but often misunderstood disease.
Don’t see your question listed here? Reach out to our doctors at Statesboro Women’s Health Specialists to schedule an appointment!
Answering your most common questions
Pelvic pain is the most commonly reported symptom of endometriosis. The severity of pain varies and can radiate into the abdomen, back, and legs, though the severity of the pain is not an indicator of the severity of the condition. Often described as “cramp-like,” the pain is sometimes accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea and depends on where endometrial tissue has grown.
Locations endometriosis can grow include:
•Ligaments that support the uterus
Women may have one or more of the following symptoms:
•Severe period cramps
•Chronic pelvic pain that comes and goes (throughout the menstrual cycle)
•Diarrhea or constipation
•Pelvic pain with exercise
•Pain after a pelvic exam
•Pain with intercourse
•Spotting or bleeding between periods
Treatment for endometriosis typically involves medication or surgery. The approach depends on how severe your signs and symptoms are and whether you hope to become pregnant.
Treatment options can include one or a combination of the following:
•Pain medication, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
•Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) agonists and antagonists
The truth is, the medical community is not certain about what causes endometriosis. However, we do know that it is not contagious or infectious, meaning you can’t transfer it to anyone else. That includes your sexual partners and any children you may have.
There is some evidence that endometriosis could be hereditary, though more research is necessary to know for sure. Thankfully, doctors today are listening to their patients and actively pursuing new insights about the underlying causes of this common medical condition.
Research suggests that endometriosis is a progressive disease, meaning it tends to worsen over time. The most common way to classify the progression of endometriosis is in stages:
Stage I: minimal, with superficial implants (small wounds or lesions) and little to no scar tissue.
Stage II: mild, with more implants deeper in the tissue.
Stage III: moderate, with many deep implants, often accompanied by small cysts and bands of scar tissue
Stage IV: severe, with widespread implants, extensive scar tissue, and larger cysts
Women don’t always progress through these stages from one to the next. Furthermore, severe pain may not correspond with a severe stage. Your doctor will perform a thorough examination to determine the stage of your endometriosis and recommend a personalized treatment plan.
Anything that aggravates inflammation can make your symptoms worse. Though professional endometriosis treatment is important to help you manage these symptoms, lifestyle changes can also help. Consider the following to help avoid triggering pelvic pain:
•Get plenty of exercise to increase endorphins and regulate estrogen
•Avoid drinking too much alcohol
•Eat a diet rich in leafy greens and omega-3 fatty acids
•Avoid saturated fats and red meats, which can trigger inflammation
Practice stress relief methods to reduce pain sensitivity
Currently, there is no cure for endometriosis. However, that doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do! Left untreated and unmanaged, endometriosis can significantly interfere with your quality of life. We can help you regain control, providing support, guidance, and treatments such as:
•Surgical excision of endometriosis
Finding a support system is one of the most overlooked aspects of managing endometriosis. There are plenty of online resources, including support groups where you can share your experiences and questions with women who understand them firsthand.
Of course, choosing a provider that will treat you with compassion and understanding is crucial. Dr. Gary B. Sullivan is committed to listening to his patients and partnering with them to deliver the care and resources they need. If you’re struggling with pelvic pain, or with doctors who haven’t provided the attention you deserve, now is the time to reach out to Statesboro Women’s Health and start your journey to a pain-free life.
Laparoscopic surgery was first introduced in the 1960s as an efficient, minimally invasive procedure to remove endometrial tissue, scars, and cysts. Since then, laparoscopic surgery techniques and technology have developed greatly. Today, this surgery is the most reliable, efficient, and innovative treatment option to diagnose and treat endometriosis, as well as prevent complications such as infertility.
Undergoing laparoscopic surgery as a treatment for endometriosis can:
•Reduce the growth of endometriosis tissue on fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, and more
•Reduce the intensity of period cramps
•Minimize pelvic pain and painful urination
•Help you manage digestive issues such as diarrhea, constipation, and bloating
•Reduce spotting between periods and pain during intercourse
Learn more about how laparoscopic surgery works and what to expect from it below.
Laparoscopic surgeries are among the least invasive types of surgeries. During the surgery, you will be given a local or general anesthetic so that you won’t feel any pain.
Dr. Gary Sullivan, director of the Statesboro Women’s Surgery Center, will create a small incision in your abdomen, usually just under your belly button.
He will then insert a tiny cannula through the incision and inflate the abdomen with gas so that the surgeon can better investigate your condition. Then, using a laparoscope with an integrated camera, he will remove endometriosis tissue via excision or ablation.
Immediately after the surgery, you might feel pain in the lower abdomen and notice increased sensitivity in the areas around the scars. However, this pain should subside quickly, giving you lasting relief from the pain of endometriosis.
When you are getting ready for your laparoscopic surgery, Dr. Sullivan will give you precise instructions and will be available to answer any questions you might have. However, generally, you should:
•Avoid eating or drinking anything for the 8 hours leading up to the surgery
•Pack a few personal items in case your circumstances require you to stay at the hospital for longer than a few hours
•Make sure that a friend, family member, or partner can drive you home and stay with you after the procedure
•Avoid showering or taking a bath for 48 hours after the operation
Any side effects such as nausea should resolve within hours or days, and you should be able to resume your daily activities after 1-3 weeks of rest and recovery.
Laparoscopic surgery is one of the most efficient ways to treat endometriosis and help you regain your quality of life. Indeed, studies show that 60% of women who undergo this treatment report improved quality of life.
At Statesboro Women’s Health Specialists, Dr. Sullivan might recommend this treatment if your endometriosis is causing severe pain, interfering with your daily life, or causing infertility. He is also prepared to recommend medicines, hormonal treatments, and holistic approaches to try if you’re not quite ready for surgery yet. No matter what you decide, take the first step toward a pain-free life by scheduling an appointment today!
You’re not alone if you’re experiencing chronic pelvic pain. The good news is that you don’t have to suffer from chronic pelvic pain symptoms or assume that you have to live with this type of discomfort. Whether the cause of your pelvic pain has been diagnosed or is yet to be, you have options and support.
You may not realize or be aware that a wealth of options and resources is available to you. If you can relate to the life-altering process of dealing with pelvic pain, then it’s wise to review the most common treatment options. When you’re informed, you can talk to your doctor with confidence, feel better sooner, and get back to living your life to the fullest.
Answering your most common questions
Depending on the cause of your pelvic pain, medicine might be one of your best options for healing and clearing up the issue. Many different types of medicines can be used to treat pelvic pain. For instance, your provider may advise that you use pain relievers that you either swallow or have injected.
Your doctor might also have you try muscle relaxers or antidepressants as well, both of which can help regulate and relieve pain. It’ll all depend on how intense the pain is, how often it occurs, and your unique body. It’s always best to make an appointment for an exam so we can develop the best pain relief option for you.
When experiencing pelvic pain, you may also be advised to partake in hormone treatments. These types of treatments can specifically be useful if the pain is related to menstruation or endometriosis, in which case you’ll require endometriosis treatment. These treatments help control estrogen, which in turn regulates endometriosis symptoms.
Keep in mind that hormone treatment is different from hormone therapy that’s used to treat the symptoms that come with menopause. Instead, your provider might have you use hormones that are placed in the uterus, swallowed, or injected. They may or may not include birth control pills, gonadotropin-releasing hormone injections, or progestin-releasing intrauterine devices.
Another one of the most common treatment options for pelvic pain is minimally invasive surgery. The reason is that you may need to remove excess tissue such as fibroids, endometriosis, or adhesions. The surgery has the potential to reduce the discomfort and pain that can come from the pelvic area. Finally, a hysterectomy might be necessary depending on the level of pain and its cause.
At Statesboro Women’s Health, Dr. Gary B. Sullivan is not only a compassionate OB/GYN but also a highly experienced surgeon working in our state-of-the-art Women’s Surgery Center. He can help you determine the best surgical options for you, depending on your preferences, diagnosis, and goals for having a family.
There are also several holistic options for treating pelvic pain that might be of interest to you. For instance, you may want to focus on some lifestyle changes such as getting regular physical activity, eating better, and improving your posture. It may also be beneficial to speak to a counselor and use “talk therapy” in combination with medical treatment to try and relieve the pelvic pain you’re feeling. Yoga, acupuncture, and pelvic floor physical therapy are also possibilities to experiment with if a holistic approach is best suited for you.
Many women are alarmed when they hear they may have an ovarian cyst. But what exactly is an ovarian cyst, and is it something you should be worried about?
Ovarian cysts are very common. Many women develop small cysts every month and never realize it, passing them naturally in 2 to 3 menstrual cycles. However, some cysts can continue to grow and cause painful symptoms, like pelvic pain. Cysts requiring treatment occur in about 8% of premenopausal women.
We’re here to answer your most frequently asked questions about ovarian cysts and pelvic pain so that you can better understand this common condition and make an informed decision about when to see a trusted OBGYN.
Answering your most common questions
Ovarian cysts are small fluid-filled sacs that form on or inside one of your ovaries. They occur in two main types: functional cysts and non-functional cysts. Functional cysts are the most common, usually causing no symptoms and disappearing on their own in 6–8 weeks. Non-functional cysts come in a variety of forms, including:
•Cystadenomas: benign (non-cancerous) tumors that form on the outer surface of the ovary
•Endometriomas: many small cysts that develop as a result of endometriosis
•Dermoid cysts and Teratomas: cysts or benign tumors containing different tissues such as skin and hair, which are often present from birth.
Malignant (cancerous) cysts are rare and are a form of ovarian cancer.
Most cysts don’t cause any symptoms and aren’t a cause for concern. However, larger cysts can present problematic symptoms, including:
•Pelvic pain, especially during sex and before/after your period
•Bloating, or a heavy or full feeling inside the abdomen
•Frequent urination or a feeling that you can’t completely empty your bladder
•Unusual vaginal bleeding
If you experience any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor straight away. If you have sudden, severe pain in your pelvis or abdomen or experience nausea and vomiting, call 911, as these could be signs of a ruptured cyst or twisted ovary.
Many ovarian cysts are harmless and painless, developing as part of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Simple ovarian cysts occur in almost all premenopausal women and up to 18% of postmenopausal women. Certain conditions may increase your risk of developing cysts that require treatment, such as:
•Irregular menstrual cycles
•Hormonal imbalances, including those brought on by fertility drugs
•Severe pelvic infection
Typically, ovarian cysts do not affect your ability to conceive. Ovarian cysts caused by certain underlying conditions can, however, make it harder to get pregnant. Endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are the two most common conditions that can interfere with conception.
Of course, every woman is different, and your doctor can work with you to address any underlying fertility issues that may occur alongside cysts.
Cysts are often discovered during regular pelvic exams. If you or your OB/GYN suspect that you may have an ovarian cyst, your doctor may order more comprehensive exams or tests to learn more about your symptoms. These tests include:
•Ultrasound exams to show the shape, size, location, and other characteristics of the cyst
•Pregnancy tests, which can indicate the presence of certain types of cyst
•Blood tests for CA 125, a cancer antigen
Most ovarian cysts may not need treatment or surveillance. For cysts that are large or causing discomfort, your doctor will perform a thorough assessment, including test results, evaluation of your symptoms, and your medical history. Depending on the type of cyst, treatment options may include:
•Watchful waiting: monitoring your cyst with ultrasounds over time
•Medication: taking birth control pills, which stop ovulation and reduce the chance of future cyst development
•Laparoscopic surgery: removing the cyst through a small incision
Whenever you’re experiencing pelvic pain or discomfort, it’s best to call a trusted and experienced OB/GYN like Dr. Gary B. Sullivan for a thorough evaluation. Ovarian cysts are no cause for panic, but ignoring the symptoms of larger cysts can lead to serious complications down the road. It’s important to be proactive when painful symptoms arise and make sure to schedule your annual exams with a doctor who cares!