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Endometriosis

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The endometrium is the name of the tissue that lines the uterus. Endometriosis is the condition that occurs when the endometrium grows in areas of the body where it is not supposed to. This can cause significant pain, irregular bleeding, and quite possibly infertility. In most cases of endometriosis, the tissue tends to grow in the pelvic area, including the outside of the uterus, on the bowels, rectum, ovaries, bladder, and the lining of the pelvis. Occasionally the endometrium will grow in other parts of the body as well, although this is considered quite rare.

ENDOMETRIOSIS SYMPTOMS

Symptoms of endometriosis may include menstrual periods that are increasingly painful, lower abdominal pain, pelvic cramping for a week or two prior to menstruation, Lower abdominal cramping and pain felt during menstruation, pelvic pain at any time during menstruation, back pain felt at any time during menstruation, pain during intercourse, pain after intercourse, pain with bowel movements, spotting before menstruation, or infertility. Most women have cramps during menstruation. Endometriosis is significantly painful beyond normal cramping associated with menstruation.

ENDOMETRIOSIS CAUSES

There is no known cause of endometriosis, although there are theories as to why it strikes some women. It is possible that endometrium cells which are loosened during menstruation may end up back up in the fallopian tubes. An immune system that is not normal may cause menstrual tissue to implant itself in other areas of the body. It is possible that the cells which line the uterine cavity may spontaneously develop into endometriosis. It is possible that there are genetic links to why some women develop endometriosis.
Endometriosis
Image: Endometriosis

ENDOMETRIOSIS DIAGNOSIS

At least 10% of women experience endometriosis and it is considered a fairly common problem. While most women are diagnosed between their twenties and thirties, the problem most likely occurs at the beginning of menses and becomes exacerbated over time. The endometrium responds to hormonal signals, just as it does inside the uterus. Thus, when the hormones signal that it is time for the endometrium to fall off, causing menses, the endometrium that is elsewhere is the body responds as well causing pain and sometimes spotty bleeding.

Scarring and adhesions may develop over the fallopian tubes over time, rendering the woman infertile. Nearly 35% of all infertile women have some degree of endometriosis. Women with a mother or sister with endometriosis are 6 times more likely to develop it as well. Women with irregularly long periods, who start menstruating at an early age, and who have regular menstrual cycles are more likely to have endometriosis than those who start menses later in life and who tend to have short periods.

A pelvic exam is necessary to confirm the diagnosis of endometriosis. A pelvic exam may reveal tender nodules of a lumpy consistency. Most often these lumpy nodules are found along the posterior vaginal wall as well as the regions surrounding the ovaries. The uterus is likely to either fixed or retroverted. A simple test known as a laparoscopy is needed to confirm the diagnosis, but most patients start treatment once the pelvic exam has confirmed the presence of lumpy nodules.
Endometrium
Image: Endometrium

ENDOMETRIOSIS SIDE EFFECTS

Complications may include infertility, although not in every case. Endometriosis has been known to return even after a hysterectomy. In severe cases, endometriosis causes blockages of the gastrointestinal or urinary tracts.

ENDOMETRIOSIS TREATMENT

Treatment options depend on the severity of the disease, the woman’s desire for children, and how tolerable or intolerable the symptoms are. Treatment may include painkillers, stopping the menstrual cycle once or twice, hormonal therapies, and surgical procedures which may or may not include the removal if the uterus.

There are no determining factors within a woman’s control when it comes to the development of endometriosis. There are no medications that reduce the risk and there are no obvious warning signs of who may get the disease and who may not. If endometriosis is suspected, women are urged to contact a gynecologist immediately for an examination and a thorough explanation of treatment options. Endometriosis does not have to mean the end of fertility if caught and treated early. With proper care, many women are able to undergo successful treatment for endometriosis and continue on with a normal life.
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