Posts for category: Women's Health Care
Endometriosis is a female condition in which tissue that's similar to uterine lining begins growing on the outside of the uterus, often affecting the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvic tissue. During your cycle, the endometrial tissue then becomes thicker until it breaks down and bleeds, and due to how this tissue can’t be removed from the body, it gets trapped. Over time, this can lead to scar tissue (known as adhesions) on the reproductive organs.
This condition affects as many as 11 percent of US woman between the ages of 15 and 44, most often affecting women in their 30s and 40s. This condition can also make it more challenging for women to get pregnant.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
The classic symptom of endometriosis is abdominal pain that is usually worse during your menstrual cycle. While a lot of women complain of some abdominal discomfort during menstruation, women with endometriosis often complain of very painful periods, which may even radiate to the lower back.
Women with endometriosis may also experience very heavy periods or breakthrough bleeding (bleeding between cycles). You may also notice pelvic pain during sex or with bowel movements, as well as bloating, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, or fatigue.
All symptoms will vary from woman to woman. For instance, some women may have very severe symptoms but only have milder cases of endometriosis, while those with more severe cases may experience little-to-no-discomfort. Everyone is different; however, if you are experiencing new, persistent, or worsening pelvic pain, it’s important that you talk with your gynecologist.
If you are trying to conceive you may also find it more difficult to do so. Sometimes women don’t often find out that they have endometriosis until they visit their OBGYN to discuss problems getting pregnant.
How is endometriosis diagnosed?
During your evaluation, your OBGYN will ask you questions about the symptoms that you are experiencing. From there, a couple of tests will be performed in order to pinpoint specific signs and symptoms of endometriosis. These tests include a traditional pelvic exam or an ultrasound. In some instances, an MRI exam or a laparoscopy (a minor surgical procedure that allows a doctor to examine the inside of the abdomen and uterus) may be recommended to make a definitive diagnosis.
How is this condition treated?
Since there is no cure for endometriosis the goal of treatment is to manage your symptoms. As with most conditions, we will recommend more conservative treatment options at first to see if they are effective. Common treatment options include,
- Pain medications (either over-the-counter or prescription-strength)
- Hormone therapy (e.g. birth control pills; progestin therapy)
- Fertility treatment (for women who are having trouble conceiving)
- Laparoscopic surgery to remove excess endometrial tissue
If you are experiencing symptoms of endometriosis, it’s important that you talk to a gynecologist as soon as possible.
If you are a woman over the age of 18, you should already be visiting a gynecologist such as North Dallas's own Dr. Carolyn Ross Riley for annual care. As part of your routine checkups and exam, you may also hear talk about getting a Pap smear. Whether this is your first time getting Pap smear or you're just wondering why this test is so important, we are here to tell you everything you need to understand about the topic.
What is a Pap Smear?
A Pap smear is the best way for our North Dallas women’s doctor to check the cells of the cervix, a structure that lies between the uterus and the vagina. By performing this test, we can check for any abnormal or suspicious cells that could be an early warning sign of cervical cancer, a disease often due to a sexually transmitted infection known as the human papillomavirus (more commonly known as HPV).
Who Should Get a Pap Smear?
While most young women will begin seeing their gynecologist once they are sexually active or by the time they turn 18, most OBGYNs won’t recommend getting a Pap smear until around 21 years old. If you are still a virgin, you and your gynecologist will discuss whether you require a Pap smear since the risk of cervical cancer for those who’ve never had sexual intercourse is rather low.
Of course, there are other risk factors that could increase your chances of developing cervical cancer. During your first gynecological exam, your gynecologist will sit with you and discuss your medical history at length to determine when you should get your first Pap smear.
Are There Ways to Protect Yourself From Getting Cervical Cancer?
As we mentioned earlier, a lot of cervical cancer cases are due to HPV. Given that HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, the most obvious way to protect yourself against the infection is either to remain abstinent or practice safe sex. This means using a condom every time you have sex, which can reduce your risk of becoming infected. Using spermicidal gels can also protect against HPV.
It’s also important that you and your gynecologist discuss whether you could benefit from getting the HPV vaccine, a process that involves three separate shots spread out over six months. While most girls get the vaccine during their pre-teen years (11 or 12 years old), any young woman between the ages of 9 to 26 years old should consider getting the HPV vaccine to protect against most forms of cervical cancer.
Need More Info? Call Us Today!
Do you have questions about getting a Pap smear? Do you need to schedule your next annual gynecology exam? Whatever the case might be, don’t hesitate to call CornerstoneMD's North Dallas office at (469) 801-8480 to schedule your appointment with our very own Dr. Carolyn Ross Riley.
Need a colposcopy? If your pap test results are abnormal, your doctor may ask you to have a colposcopy. Colposcopy is an effective and safe procedure. It's important to attend your colposcopy appointment even if you do not have any symptoms. Read to to learn more about colposcopy.
What is colposcopy?
A colposcopy is a simple procedure that lets your healthcare provider get a good look at your cervix. The procedure involves looking at the cervix through a lighted magnifying instrument. It shines a light into the vagina and cervix. This examination allows your doctor to find problems that cannot be seen by the eye alone. The exam takes 5 to 10 minutes. Sometimes the exam may need to be performed more than once.
Why is colposcopy done?
The procedure is done in a doctor's office. Colposcopy is performed when results of pap smear tests show abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix. The exam provides more information about the abnormal cells. Colposcopy is also used to further assess other problems, including pain, genital warts on the cervix, bleeding, cervicitis, and benign growths.
How is the procedure done?
During the procedure, you will lie on your back with your feet raised and placed on footrests. Your doctor will use a medical tool to hold apart the walls so the inside of the vagina and cervix can be viewed. The lighted magnifying instrument placed outside the opening of your vagina. A mild solution will be applied to your vagina and cervix. This solution makes abnormal areas on the cervix easy to see.
When is a biopsy done?
Sometimes, a biopsy is done during a colposcopy. During colposcopy, your healthcare provider may see abnormal areas. A biopsy of these areas may be done. During a biopsy, a small piece of tissue is removed from the patient's cervix. The sample is removed with a special device. Sometimes, the biopsy is also your treatment. That's because your healthcare provider may be able to remove all of the abnormal cervical cells during the biopsy. If so, you will not need further treatment.
What is recovery like?
If a biopsy is not done during the colposcopy, you should feel fine afterwards. You may have a little spotting for a few days. If you a biopsy is done, you may have pain for one or two days. You may have some bleeding. You may also have some discharge from your vagina. While your cervix heals, you will be told not to put anything into your vagina for a short time. Test results from the exam can take some time to be returned, but rest assured that your doctor will call as soon as the results are in.
As you might imagine, women’s bones are smaller than men’s, which puts women at a risk for developing osteoporosis, a chronic condition that causes a loss of bone density and can leave women prone to fractures. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 80 percent of Americans with osteoporosis are women and half of women over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
Why does osteoporosis mostly affect women? During childbearing years, your body produces estrogen, a hormone that is not only implemental in your reproductive and sexual health but also serves to protect your bones; however, as women approach menopause their estrogen production decreases drastically, which makes women prone to fractured and broken bones.
Fortunately, your gynecologist and women’s health team are instrumental in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of osteoporosis. Bone density is influenced by many factors including hormone levels, lifestyle, nutrition, medications, health problems, and genetics. Common risk factors include:
- Family history
- History of broken bones/fractures
- Poor nutrition
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Lack of calcium or other vitamins in your diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Low body mass index (BMI) and weight
The good news about osteoporosis is that it can be prevented through proper screenings and medications/therapies used to slow the progress of osteoporosis. Your initial screening will provide the information you need to help you and your gynecological team make an informed decision about the type of treatment options available to you. An X-ray is the most common diagnostic tool for checking the density level of your bones.
Getting an osteoporosis screening is highly recommended for all postmenopausal women (women 65 years old or older). If a woman is at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, she may want to consider getting screened even earlier.
Osteoporosis treatment will include lifestyle changes along with medications/treatments. Simple everyday measures you can take to lessen your chances of bone fractures include:
- Making sure you get enough Vitamin D and calcium in your diet
- Reducing alcohol consumption
- Exercise regularly (include both cardio and strength training)
- Quit smoking
There are also a variety of different prescription medications on the market (also known as bisphosphonates) that can aid in preventing bone loss. Along with medications, your gynecologist may also recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which will supply your body with the estrogen it needs to both prevent and treat osteoporosis.