Endometriosis, when left untreated, can lead to health complications. That’s why it’s important to see an endometriosis specialist as soon as you notice symptoms.
How do you find the best endometriosis doctor in Northern Virginia? What are the symptoms, and how will you be diagnosed? What should you expect? All of those answers and more can be found in this guide to endometriosis.
What Exactly Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis occurs when tissue lining the uterus called endometrium grows outside your uterus. It is an often painful disorder that can negatively affect your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvis.
What Are the Symptoms of Endometriosis?
If you have endometriosis, you’ll likely experience menstrual symptoms more severely than you normally would. The most common symptoms of endometriosis are:
- Dysmenorrhea or very painful periods
- Excessive bleeding
- Painful bowel movements or urination
- Painful intercourse
Be aware of all symptoms you experience, but know for a proper diagnosis you need to schedule an appointment with an endometriosis doctor.
How Do I Find the Right Endometriosis Doctor for Me?
Choosing a doctor can seem like a rather daunting task, especially if you are experiencing troubling and painful symptoms. The good news is it’s not that difficult to find the right doctor if you follow a few simple tips.
- Ask people you trust. If you know someone who has gone through diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis, ask them about their experience and who they would recommend.
- Ask your primary care provider (PCP). While many doctors might be able to diagnose endometriosis, it’s possible they aren’t able to treat you. So, get a referral from your PCP.
- Check with your insurance carrier. Diagnosis and treatment for endometriosis can be costly so it will benefit you financially in the long run if you can find an in-network endometriosis doctor.
- Verify credentials. Once you have a list of potential doctors, check their credentials. What kind of education and training do they have? Do they specialize in treating endometriosis? How much experience do they have? What is their success rate?
- Read reviews. You can gain a lot of intel from online reviews and patient testimonials, so take time to read them.
Once You’ve Finished Your Research, Schedule Your Appointment With Your Endometriosis Doctor
Getting a diagnosis isn’t something you want to put off. If you’re feeling nervous about your first appointment, you’ll feel less frazzled if you prepare ahead of time.
Keep a diary of your symptoms. Once you start experiencing signs of endometriosis, make a note of them. Jot down dates and exactly what you physically feel. Take this diary with you to your first appointment. Need help describing your symptoms? You can find a fantastic guide on endometriosis.org.
Are new patient forms online? If so, print them and fill them out at home. It is a bit stressful to have to come up with medical dates and other related information while sitting in a waiting room.
If you can’t print and fill out forms at home, take your medical records with you to your first appointment. Your endometriosis doctor will need all of this information. Be sure to include a list of medications and supplements you’re taking.
Have questions? Write them down and take them along with your insurance card with you.
Take a support person with you to your appointment. It never hurts to have someone cheering you on. It’s also helpful to have a second set of ears to gather data, so you don’t miss anything.
What Should I Expect at My Endometriosis Appointment?
During your endometriosis appointment, your vitals including blood pressure will be taken, and your height and weight will be recorded. Then, you’ll talk about your health history. After that, you’ll have a pelvic exam. Your endometriosis doctor might also want you to have tests.
There are some common tests used to diagnose endometriosis. Ultrasound and MRI are both painless and do not require anesthesia or incisions.
Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the inside of your body. To capture these images, an ultrasound can be done externally or transvaginally.
An MRI is sometimes used to help plan surgery. Imaging of the inside of your body is done with magnetic fields and radio waves.
Laparoscopy, a surgical method to view your organs, does require anesthesia, but it is a worthwhile test. It can provide your doctor with the extent of your condition, as well as the location and size of your endometrial implants. It is sometimes possible to do a laparoscopy and treat endometriosis at the same time.
What Are My Treatment Options if I’ve Been Diagnosed With Endometriosis?
There was a time when surgery was the most likely endometriosis treatment option, but thanks to advances in medicine and technology, that’s no longer the case. To control your symptoms, your endometriosis doctor may suggest a pain reliever. In some cases, over-the-counter (OTC) medication may work.
Hormone therapy might be an option for you too. When people think “hormone therapy,” they often immediately associate it with menopause, but hormone therapy can mean a few different treatments:
- Aromatase inhibitors: This reduces the amount of estrogen in your body and can safely be combined with progestin therapy.
- Conservative surgery: If you are planning to become pregnant, this type of surgery is done to remove endometriosis implants while allowing you to retain your reproductive organs.
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) agonists and antagonists: These types of medications lower your level of estrogen and stop menstruation causing endometrial tissue to shrink.
- Hormonal contraceptives: This can include oral contraceptives, pills, patches, or vaginal rings.
- Hysterectomy: This is a last resort option when other non-invasive or minimally-invasive treatment options aren’t effective at treating your endometriosis.
- Infertility treatments: If you are having difficulty getting pregnant, your endometriosis doctor in Northern Virginia may recommend either stimulating your ovaries to produce more eggs or in-vitro.
- Progestin therapy: Treatments that fall into this category include IUDs and implants.
If I Have Treatment, Will My Endometriosis Come Back?
Unfortunately, it can happen. But, it doesn’t always, and it depends on several factors such as how severe your condition was, how thorough your surgery was to remove lesions, and whether you underwent postoperative medical suppressive therapy.
Recent studies have shown that patients who had conservative surgery have a 20% to 40% chance of recurring endometriosis. However, when conservative surgery is followed by hormonal therapies, there is less of a chance it will come back.
There has been another study done on patients who opted for a hysterectomy. Patients who kept their ovaries had a higher risk of recurrent endometriosis than women who opted for a full hysterectomy.
A full hysterectomy does come with its own challenges, so make sure you fully understand the side effects before proceeding with surgery.
If You’re Looking for the Best Endometriosis Doctor in Northern Virginia, Look No Further Than Annandale Ob-Gyn!
If you suspect you have endometriosis, please do not wait to give us a call. Our healthcare providers are here to provide you with top-notch personalized treatment so you can live your life healthy, happy, and pain-free.
For your convenience we have late lab hours, offer virtual visits, and accept many insurance plans. Contact us at 703-288-4330 to schedule your appointment today!