Finding effective endometriosis treatment can be challenging for many patients. An initial consultation with a physician or gynecologist may leave them with a flurry of unanswered questions: Who diagnoses endometriosis? Who are the endometriosis specialists who can treat me? Will I need surgery? Who will help me manage my pain?
A dedicated and caring team of healthcare professionals is essential for diagnosing and treating endometriosis, which affects around 11 percent of American women between the ages of 15 and 44. Depending on the patient's situation, they may end up seeing an endocrinologist, a surgeon or a variety of other clinicians. Learn about the potential endometriosis specialists and doctors that women should expect to consult and how they all work together to provide care.
Primary Care Physician
Although a patient's family doctor, internist or nurse practitioner is often the first to encounter endometriosis, they don't typically have specialized gynecology training. Primary care physicians can refer patients to gynecologists or other specialists who can diagnose endometriosis. They can also continue to collaborate with a patient's healthcare team to ensure stability and continuity.
Gynecologists have an important place in the diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis, particularly if they have specialized training in the management of this condition. A gynecologist specializing in endometriosis who is skilled in using ultrasound and other imaging tools can help establish an accurate diagnosis by identifying areas of endometrial tissue, such as nodules and cysts. Gynecologists can also prescribe hormone treatments and pain relievers to help manage symptoms and improve quality of life for women with endometriosis.
It was formerly believed that an endometriosis diagnosis could only be confirmed with laparoscopy. Today, thanks to improvements in ultrasound technology and other diagnostic tools, it is possible to make a presumptive endometriosis diagnosis without surgery.
It's important to note, however, that many women with the condition may need surgical treatment. For instance, a surgeon may need to perform a laparotomy to remove adhesions or patches of endometrial tissue. They may also need to perform a hysterectomy or other procedures depending on the individual's treatment needs. Seeing as endometrial tissue can grow in the bladder, large intestine and other areas, a patient's surgical team may include specialists, such as a colorectal surgeon.
An endocrinologist may need to step in if a patient requires hormonal treatment for endometriosis. These practitioners can also treat some of the comorbidities of endometriosis, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome. Further, a reproductive endocrinologist may provide consultation and treatment for a patient who wants to keep their options for pregnancy open, guiding them through the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process if necessary.
Women who experience fertility challenges as a result of endometriosis and still want to become pregnant may work with a fertility specialist who is an authority on options such as IVF or egg preservation. Using ultrasound technology, a fertility specialist can assess a woman's likelihood of pregnancy, as well as monitor her health during assisted reproduction procedures, such as IVF.
Because not all gynecologists, endocrinologists or surgeons specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis, it may be in someone's best interest to consult a specialist.
These practitioners are the most experienced in caring for patients with endometriosis, and they can offer unparalleled guidance on treating and managing the condition. Endometriosis specialists tend to be found in larger teaching hospitals or medical centers, but some are in private practice.
By helping patients with endometriosis understand the various healthcare professionals that play a role in their treatment journey — and what each doctor does — you can prepare your patients for each step of the process and empower them to seek out the treatment they deserve.