Endometriosis – Basic Information

Endometriosis is a condition that millions of women struggle with worldwide. It’s estimated to affect between 2-10% of American women of childbearing age. Endometriosis gets its name from the endometrium, which is the tissue that lines the uterus and is released during menstruation.

Women with endometriosis develop tissue that looks and acts like the endometrium outside of the uterus, usually on other reproductive organs in the female body. This misplaced tissue responds, however, to the hormonal changes caused by menstruation monthly. It builds up and breaks down as the endometrium does but this tissue causes bleeding inside the pelvis. (Ouch!) Obviously, this leads to inflammation and pain as the swelling and scarring of tissue occurs. When a woman’s ovary is involved, the misplaced tissue can form a ‘blood blister’ surrounded by a fibrous cyst, called an endometrioma.

Endometriosis’ causes are difficult to pinpoint so it often makes it equally as difficult to diagnose. Some believe there’s a genetic component to the condition. Endometriosis can occur in the following locations:

·        Ovaries,
·        Fallopian Tubes,
·        Uterosacral Ligaments (ligaments that support the uterus),
·        The posterior cul-de-sac               or the space between the rectum and the uterus,
·        The anterior cul-de-sac or the space between the uterus and the bladder,
·        The outer surface of the uterus,
·        And the lining of the pelvic cavity.

Sometimes, endometrial tissue is found in other locations such as the intestines, rectum, bladder, vagina, cervix, vulva or in abdominal surgery scars.

The symptoms of endometriosis are varied and are often missed by doctors, causing women to feel ashamed for or decide not to seek treatment. These include:

·        Pain, especially excessive menstrual cramps that may be felt in the abdomen or lower back,
·        Pain during intercourse,
·        Abnormal or heavy menstrual flow,
·        Infertility,
·        Painful urination during menses,
·        Painful bowel movements during menses,
·        And gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, nausea or constipation and/or nausea.

Please note that the amount of pain a woman experiences is not necessarily related to the severity of the disease. Some women with severe endometriosis don’t experience any pain while others with a mild form of the condition may struggle with severe pain or other symptoms.

Although it’s difficult to get a diagnosis of endometriosis, a woman should not give up on herself or the medical profession. We must fight for our rights to be heard, understood, acknowledged, and treated. Some ways that endometriosis can be diagnosed include ultrasounds, CT scans or MRIs.
 
Treatments for endometriosis are based on:

·        Your overall health and medical history,
·        Current symptoms,
·        Extent of the disease,
·        Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
·        Expectations for the course of the disease
·        The patient’s desire to get pregnant.
 
If symptoms are mild, the provider may determine that pain medication is necessary. Treatments include:

·        Oral contraceptives with combined estrogen and progestin (a synthetic form of progesterone) to prevent ovulation and reduce menstrual flow,
·        Progestins by themselves,
·        Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist, which stops ovarian hormone production, creating a sort of ‘medical menopause’
·        And Danazol, a synthetic derivative of testosterone.

Next time, we’ll focus on natural remedies for endometriosis which can be very beneficial for women still seeking a diagnosis or who don’t want to use hormonal therapies or medications. Please note that I am NOT a medical doctor and this article is informative only. It is not meant to replace medical assistance. If you suspect you have endometriosis, it’s advisable to seek out the assistance of a medical professional.
 

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