Getting a diagnosis of endometriosis can be upsetting and even frightening. But it’s also very important because it’s the first step in treating the problem, so you can have less pain and feel better again. While a doctor can’t make a definitive diagnosis of endo just based on the symptoms you report, making sure your doctor understands what you’re experiencing can help them choose the right tests.
Although a pelvic exam cannot be used to definitively make the diagnosis of endometriosis, it can sometimes be suggestive of endometriosis. Your doctor will be feeling for anything abnormal, such as scars or cysts. If these are very small, they generally can’t be felt, but larger areas could be noticeable. It is important to note that you can have a completely normal pelvic exam and still have endometriosis.
An ultrasound is a common way doctors look for signs of endometriosis. This won’t officially tell a doctor whether you have endometriosis, but it will show them whether there are any cysts that are commonly associated with the condition. In particular your doctor will be looking for the presence of chocolate cysts. Some ultrasounds are done on your abdomen, but they can also be done transvaginally. Again, it is important to note that you can have a completely normal ultrasound and still have endometriosis.
A laparoscopy is the gold standard for making the diagnosis of endometriosis. At the time of laparoscopy, your doctor can see where the lesions of endometriosis are located and look for scar tissue which can also be present as a result of endometriosis. This procedure is done under anesthesia, and it’s completed through a small incision near your belly button and 2 to 3 more very small incisions typically lower down at the level of the pubic hair line. A viewing instrument is inserted through the incision near the belly button to look for endometrial tissue growing outside the uterus, and a biopsy may be taken at that time, as well. In many cases the endo can also be treated at the time of the surgery with a laser.
The biggest goal of diagnosis is finding the right treatment, but getting a diagnosis can also help you feel more in control of your future reproductive health. It is also important to make the diagnosis early enough and implement treatment. The longer endometriosis goes untreated, the more damage it can do to your reproductive organs and increase the likelihood of requiring assisted reproductive technologies in the future. That empowerment can be very valuable as you advocate for yourself as an informed patient.
Our team here at the Fertility Institute of San Diego has been carefully selected for their extensive experience, amazing track record, and sensitivity to all our patient’s needs. We know how difficult facing fertility problems can be, and each and every member of our staff is here to listen, care for you, and welcome you as if you were our own family member. Let us be there for you, and help you grow your family, two tiny feet at a time.
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