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Hope for Ending the Pain, Infertility of Endometriosis?

Jan Ruma’s pain was getting worse, but she wrote it off as just a part of growing older and a normal side-effect of “that time of the month// .”

“I was increasingly having painful menstrual periods, cramping, painful abdomen and lower back pain,” says Ruma, 43.

After running some tests, her doctor discovered that Ruma had endometriosis, a painful condition that affects one in 10 women, usually of childbearing age. In addition to painful menstrual periods, it can cause fertility problems, heavy bleeding, painful intercourse and appears to be associated with autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and thyroid disorders.

“Endometriosis, simply put, is when the lining of the uterus, or the womb, is located where it should not be: outside of the uterus,” says Dan Lebovic, M.D., M.A., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan Medical School, who is exploring new treatment options for women with endometriosis.

“The quality of life in patients with endometriosis is severely compromised. We see a lot of patients whose jobs have been jeopardized because they have to stay home on account of pain, sometimes up to two weeks at a time,” he notes.

Treatments for the condition include medications and surgery, says Lebovic, also the co-director of the U-M Health System Endometriosis Center. Physicians sometimes prescribe pain killers or oral contraceptives to diminish the woman’s period and therefore reduce her pain, and hormones that suppress ovarian function and therefore suppress the estrogen that “seems to feed these lesions,” he says.

Surgical options include a simple laparoscopy, a procedure with only small incisions that can be used to excise small lesions in cases of mild endometriosis. More severe cases may require a laparotomy, a surgery with a larger incision in the abdomen that may require many weeks to months of recovery time. Women who do not w
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