Endometriosis is a common condition affection one in ten women of childbearing age worldwide. It’s symptoms are not easy to spot and can lead to many medical problems, including severe abdominal pain and infertility.
What is endometriosis?
The uterus is lined with blood known as endometrial tissue each month in preparation for a fertilized egg to implant. If an egg does not implant, the endometrium is shed and expelled from the woman’s body during menstruation. Endometriosis occurs when the endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus, typically within the pelvic cavity. The endometrial tissue outside of the uterus follows the same patterns of growth, deterioration and shedding as endometrial tissue within the uterus, however, when located outside of the uterus it is unable to be expelled from the body and can lead to internal bleeding, lesions, scar tissue, adhesions, severe abdominal pain and infertility.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
The symptoms of endometriosis vary, but the most common symptom is abdominal pain. This pain may be mild to severe and it may be present consistently, or revolve around the woman’s menstrual cycle. Women suffering from endometriosis may experience pain during sex, as well as pain during urination and bowel movements just before or during their menstrual period. Women with endometriosis may experience gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and constipation.
What causes endometriosis?
There is no known cause for the development of endometriosis, however, there have been several proposed theories and some strong links made to the development of it. One theory suggests that retrograde menstruation is responsible for endometriosis. In retrograde menstruation, endometrial tissue is swept through the fallopian tubes into the pelvic cavity where it implants and grows. In addition, a strong link has been made between exposure to dioxin (a chemical byproduct of the paper bleaching process and manufacture of pesticides) and endometriosis.
Can endometriosis affect fertility?
It has been speculated that out of all women who suffer from endometriosis, thirty to forty percent of them are left infertile due to their condition. It is not impossible for a woman with endometriosis to become pregnant, however, it may be more difficult and take longer than anticipated. This difficulty is thought to increase in women with more severe endometriosis. Surgery to remove endometrial growth in the pelvic cavity may increase the woman’s chances of conceiving.
What treatments are available for endometriosis?
There is no cure for endometriosis, however non-prescription and prescription pain medications may be used to control pain experienced due to endometriosis. Hormonal medications, such as birth control, are often used to treat endometriosis as they reduce the production of endometrial tissue, which may lessen symptoms. Surgery may be considered to remove endometrial growth, however, the success depends upon the severity of the endometriosis and the skills of the surgeon. In extreme cases, a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix) may be performed, however, it is impossible to become pregnant after a hysterectomy and symptoms may not be entirely relieved by a hysterectomy as endometrial growth in the pelvic cavity may still respond to the hormones produced by the ovaries.
Endometriosis : What is endometriosis?
What is Endometriosis?: The Endometriosis Association