What is Endometriosis and How is it Diagnosed?

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. A doctor explains what the chronic condition is and why there's sometimes a delay in diagnosis.

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CLEVELAND – March is National Endometriosis Awareness Month. 

For those unfamiliar, endometriosis causes tissue similar to the lining of a woman’s uterus to grow in other places – like the abdomen and pelvic area. 

It can also cause painful periods and fertility issues. 

“Still in the United States, the diagnostic delay for this disease is approximately seven to ten years, so patients do suffer for a very long time before they are diagnosed,” said Miguel Luna Russo, MD, Director of Endometriosis for Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Luna said there are a couple of reasons why a woman may not know she has endometriosis. 

For one, they may think the cramps they’re experiencing during their periods is normal. 

Another could be that surgery may be needed to confirm their diagnosis. 

However, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology has declared that’s no longer the gold standard. 

Many physicians are encouraged to now use clinical history, physical exams, MRI imaging and ultrasounds to diagnose. 

Dr. Luna said there’s also some research being done to identify possible biomarkers in the blood. 

“There’s a lot of research being performed, mostly by startups and health tech companies that are looking at non-invasive markers in the blood to diagnose endometriosis,” he said. “Those are actually a good idea because we can target those markers with drugs down the line in the future.” 

As far as treatment goes, there are multiple options available including surgery and medications.  

Dr. Luna encourages anyone who is experiencing pain and discomfort to consult with their physician. 

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