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Women's Health

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Ovarian Pain: Possible Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatments

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Ovarian Pain Caused by Endometriosis

Every month, the lining of the uterus builds up in preparation to nourish a growing fetus. When an egg is not fertilized, that lining sheds and is released from the body via menstruation. In some women, tissue like the lining of the uterus develops elsewhere in the body. This tissue swells and bleeds each month. It has nowhere to shed, though, and so it forms scar tissue and can be very painful.

Other symptoms of endometriosis

  • Painful periods
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Infertility

How endometriosis is diagnosed

  • Ultrasound and MRI. These scans create images of the ovaries to help the doctor spot endometriosis.
  • Laparoscopy. This procedure uses a thin lighted scope inserted into a tiny hole in the abdomen to allow the doctor to visualize the ovaries. The doctor may possibly remove a small sample of tissue for biopsy.

Treatment of endometriosis

  • Pain medications. Drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can help relieve some of the discomfort of endometriosis.
  • Birth control pills. The pill prevents the monthly buildup of uterine tissue on the ovaries. This makes periods lighter and reduces the symptoms of endometriosis.
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists (GnRH agonists). These drugs reduce the amount of the hormone estrogen in the body. By slowing the growth of endometriosis, they limit its symptoms.
  • Laparoscopy and laparotomy. These are surgical procedures that let the doctor remove endometriosis on the ovaries and other places. If the endometriosis is extensive, the doctor may recommend a hysterectomy. This procedure removes the uterus and sometimes also the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

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