By Christi Myers
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Women who experience unexplained abdominal pain could be facing endometriosis. The condition can be difficult to diagnose, so here's what women need to look for when it comes to that.
"The nurse and the doctor both looked at me and looked at my stomach and said, 'You look like you're seven months pregnant' and I'm like, 'I know and I'm not pregnant,'" Janet Strickland said.
Strickland was frustrated by her swollen abdomen and the pain she was having. She spent thousands of dollars on tests but got no answers.
"Everyone of those six doctors had told me there's nothing wrong with me," she said.
The doctors were wrong. After four years janet finally got an answer. Fertility Specialists of Houston Dr R.K. Mangal found severe endometriosis, which occurs when the menstrual flow goes back into the body, coating organs like glue.
"It spreads out to the pelvis, into the bowel cavity; we've seen it in lungs, we've seen it in patients with the diaphragm, so anywhere in the abdominal cavity which makes sense," Dr. Mangal said.
Endometriosis can start with painful menstrual cramps, pain during sex, bladder pain, colon pain, and infertility and more. Treatment often starts with the birth control pill to reduces the flow, and laser surgery to remove endometriosis from internal organs.
"I might have been with another doctor and they might have just wanted to do a total hysterectomy because I had it all over," Strickland said.
Instead Dr. Mangal was able to remove it but it took two surgeries to do it, and despite damage that remains, children are still possible.
"I think Janet has a good chance of having a baby," Dr. Mangal said.
But the surgeries, the tests and the pain could have been avoided had one of the first six doctors found it earlier.
Many women only discover they have endometriosis when they have infertility problems. Experts say by catching it early, women can often avoid infertility issues.