Endometriosis, also known as “endo,” is a common health problem in women. It’s derived from the word ”endometrium”, the tissue that commonly lines the womb or uterus.
Endometriosis occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus develops outside of your uterus and on other areas in your body where it doesn’t belong.
It is very popular among women in their 30s and 40s and may make it harder to get pregnant. Various treatment options can help manage the symptoms and increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Most often, endometriosis is found on the:
- Fallopian tubes
- Tissues that hold the uterus in place
- The outer surface of the uterus
Other places for growth can include the:
Infrequently, endometriosis appears in other parts of the body, such as the
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
Symptoms of endometriosis can include:
1.Pain: This is typically the common symptom. Women with endometriosis may have many different kinds of pain. These include:
- Very painful menstrual cramps. Mind you the pain may get worse over time.
- Chronic (long-term) pain in the lower back and pelvis
- Intestinal pain
- Painful bowel movements or pain when urinating during menstrual periods. In rare cases, you may also find blood in your stool or urine.
- Pain during or after sex. This is usually described as a “deep” pain and is different from pain felt at the entrance to the vagina when penetration begins.
2. Bleeding or spotting between menstrual periods. This can be produced by something other than endometriosis. If it occurs frequently, you should see your doctor.
Why does endometriosis cause health problems and pain
Endometriosis growths are benign (not cancerous). however, they can still cause problems.
The growths may swell and bleed in the same way the lining inside of your uterus does every month during your menstrual period.
This can produce swelling and pain because the tissue grows and bleeds in an area where it cannot easily get out of your body.
The growths may also proceed to expand and cause problems, such as:
- Blocking your fallopian tubes when growths cover or grow into your ovaries. Trapped blood in the ovaries can form cysts.
- Inflammation (swelling)
- Problems in your intestines and bladder
- Forming scar tissue and adhesions (a type of tissue that can bind your organs together). This scar tissue may cause pelvic pain and make it hard for you to get pregnant.
Who can be a victim of endometriosis?
Endometriosis can occur in any girl or woman who has menstrual periods, although it is more popular in women in their 30s and 40s.
You might be more likely to get endometriosis if you have:
- Menstrual periods that last more than seven days
- Never had children
- Short menstrual cycles (27 days or fewer)
- A health issue that blocks the normal flow of menstrual blood from your body during your period
- A family member (mother, aunt, sister) with endometriosis
What causes endometriosis?
No one knows for sure what causes this disease. Researchers are studying possible causes:
- Genetic factors. It may be inherited in the genes.
- Immune system problems. A weak immune system may fail to find and destroy endometrial tissue growing outside of the uterus. Immune system ailments and certain cancers are more common in women with endometriosis.
- Problems with the menstrual period flow. Retrograde menstrual flow is the most probable cause of endometriosis. Some of the tissue shed during the period flows through the fallopian tube into other areas of the body, such as the pelvis.
- Hormones. The hormone estrogen appears to promote endometriosis. The study is looking at whether endometriosis is a problem with the body’s hormone system.
- Surgery. During surgery to the abdominal area, such as a Cesarean (C-section) or hysterectomy, endometrial tissue could be picked up and moved by mistake. For example, endometrial tissue has been observed in abdominal scars.
How you can prevent endometriosis?
Science has it that you can’t prevent endometriosis. Though you can decrease your chances of developing it by reducing the levels of the hormone estrogen in your body. Estrogen helps to thicken the lining of your uterus during your menstrual cycle.
To keep lower estrogen levels in your body, you can:
- Exercise regularly (more than 4 hours a week). This will help you keep a low percentage of body fat. Consistent exercise and a lower amount of body fat help reduce the amount of estrogen circulating through the body.
- Avoid large amounts of alcohol. Alcohol raises estrogen levels. No more than one drink per day is prescribed for women who choose to drink alcohol.
- Talk to your doctor about hormonal birth control methods, such as pills, patches, or rings with lower doses of estrogen.
- Avoid large amounts of drinks with caffeine. Studies show that drinking more than one caffeinated drink a day, particularly sodas and green tea, can increase estrogen levels.
How is endometriosis diagnosed?
If you have symptoms of endometriosis, talk with your doctor.
- Imaging test. Your doctor may perform an ultrasound to examine ovarian cysts from endometriosis. The technician may insert a wand-shaped scanner into your vagina or move a scanner across your abdomen. Both kinds of ultrasound tests use sound waves to take pictures of your reproductive organs. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is another common imaging test that can make a picture of the inside of your body.
- Medicine. If your doctor does not find signs of an ovarian cyst during an ultrasound, he or she may prescribe medicine: ”Hormonal birth control or gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists
- Laparoscopy. Laparoscopy is a type of surgery that doctors can use to look inside your pelvic area to see endometriosis tissue. Surgery is the only way to be sure you have endometriosis. Sometimes doctors can diagnose endometriosis just by seeing the growths. Other times, they need to take a small sample of tissue and study it under a microscope to confirm this.
- If your pain gets better with hormonal medicine, you probably have endometriosis. But, these medicines work only as long as you take them. Once you stop taking them, your pain may come back.
- Pelvic exam. During a pelvic examination, your doctor will feel for large cysts or scars behind your uterus. Smaller areas of endometriosis are harder to feel.
Hormonal birth control is generally the first step in treatment if you are not planning on getting pregnant.
This may include:
- Intrauterine device (IUD) to aid lessen pain and bleeding. The hormonal IUD protects against pregnancy for up to 7 years. Although the hormonal IUD may not improve your pain and bleed due to endometriosis for that long.
- Extended-cycle (you have only a few periods a year) or continuous cycle (you have no periods) birth control. These types of hormonal birth control are available in the pill or the shot and help stop bleeding and decrease or reduce pain.
The hormonal treatment is best achieves only as long as it is taken and is best for women who do not have severe pain or symptoms.
Surgery is normally chosen for critical symptoms, when hormones are not providing relief or if you are having fertility problems.
During the operation, the surgeon can locate any areas of endometriosis and may remove the endometriosis patches. After surgery, hormone treatment is often restarted unless you are trying to get pregnant.
Other treatments you can try, alone or with any of the treatments listed above, include:
- Pain medicine. For mild symptoms, your doctor may recommend taking over-the-counter medicines for pain. These include ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve).
- Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies. Some women report relief from pain with therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, herbs like a cinnamon twig or licorice root, or supplements, such as thiamine (vitamin B1), magnesium, or omega-3 fatty acids…
Does endometriosis go away after menopause?
For some women, the severe symptoms of endometriosis increase after menopause.
Because the body stops producing the hormone estrogen, the growths shrink slowly. Nevertheless, some women who take menopausal hormone therapy may still have symptoms of endometriosis.
Can I get pregnant if I have endometriosis?
The answer is yes. Many women with endometriosis get pregnant. Although, you may find it difficult to get pregnant. Scholars believe endometriosis may affect as many as one in every two women with infertility.
No one knows exactly how endometriosis might cause infertility. Some possible reasons include:
- Patches of endometriosis change the shape of the pelvis and reproductive organs. This can make it harder for the sperm to find the egg.
- The endometrium (the layer of the uterine lining where implantation happens) does not develop as it should.
- The immune system, which normally helps defend the body against disease, attacks the embryo.
If you have endometriosis and are having trouble getting pregnant, talk to your doctor. He or she can prescribe treatments, such as surgery to eliminate the endometrial growths.
Other health conditions are linked to endometriosis
The study reveals a link between endometriosis and other health problems in women and their families.
Some of these include:
- Autoimmune diseases, in which the body’s system that fights illness attacks itself instead. These can include multiple sclerosis, lupus, and some types of hypothyroidism.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia
- Certain cancers, such as ovarian and breast cancer
- Allergies, asthma, and chemical sensitivities