Endometriosis is a chronic gynecologic condition in which the tissue that lines the uterus, the endometrium, grows outside of it, usually in the pelvic area but can also be found in other places in the body. The misplaced tissue responds to the hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle in the same way that the tissue lining the uterus does. Each month the tissue may build up, break down and shed. Unlike menstrual blood that flows out of the body through the vagina, the blood and tissue from endometriosis remain in the body. This results in inflammation and sometimes scarring (adhesions) leading to pain and infertility. This painful and often debilitating condition affects approximately 10% of women in reproductive age. The condition is often overlooked and dismissed as “just” painful menstrual cramps.
– Painful periods (dysmenorrhea)
Intense pelvic pain that typically begins before the menstrual bleeding starts and may last a few days longer than your period.
– Menstrual cramping that increases over time.
– Heavy menstrual bleeding which increases over time.
– Bleeding between periods.
– Pain during or after sex.
– Pain with bowel movements or urination
– Difficulty in getting pregnant.
– Other symptoms – fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating or nausea, especially during menstrual periods.
The severity of the pain can range from minimal to severe. The pain is not an indicator of the severity of the condition. Some women with mild pain will have severe endometriosis and vice versa.
One of the common complications of Endometriosis is infertility. Almost 50% of women with endometriosis will struggle with infertility, which is usually how women find out about their condition.
Being diagnosed with Endometriosis doesn’t mean you will never have children. It may require some more time and some help of assisted reproductive technologies.
If you are experiencing any of the above signs and symptoms, you should consult with your healthcare provider. Initially, the doctor may conduct a physical examination, order blood tests, imaging studies and at times require a Laparoscopy to validate the diagnosis. Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure using a fibre optic cable system which allows the doctor to examine the inside of the abdominal cavity in search of endometriosis implants.
The exact cause of endometriosis hasn’t been identified. However, several theories offer possible explanations for what causes Endometriosis. Scientists believe that one possible cause is that in some cases menstrual blood flows backward through the fallopian tubes into the pelvis and then the endometrial glands reimplant in the pelvis. Another possible explanation is a that other types of cells transform to become endometrial cells. This may explain distant endometrial implants to areas with no direct communication with the uterus. There might be a genetic component to Endometriosis as women with family history of endometriosis are more likely to develop endometriosis. The immune system also plays a potential role in the development of the disease. A dysfunctional immune system will fail to efficiently remove the extrauterine endometrial tissue, giving it the time needed for implantation. Lastly, hormones such as estrogen allow the development of Endometriosis while pregnancy and progesterone inhibit its growth.
There is no known cure for endometriosis. However, there are treatments which will relieve some of the symptoms and improve the quality of life. The treatment plan to Endometriosis depends on different factors such as severity of the disease, its location, the woman’s age and presence of other symptoms and medical conditions. For optimal outcome, the specialist will build a treatment plan based on your individual profile.
Endometriosis can be a challenging condition to manage. However, with the right treatment plan, support and lifestyle change the quality of life can be restored. You should not suffer alone, reach out and get the support and treatment you need!