Dealing with Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a serious and often painful condition that occurs when the type of tissue that normally lines the interior of the uterus grows outside of it.
It’s a disorder that can affect your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the lining of the pelvis. The tissue continues to behave as if it were growing within the uterus.
Depending upon where the uterine tissue is growing, it can cause:
- Cysts when it affects the ovaries
- Scar tissue formation due to irritation of surrounding tissues
- Adhesions, which are bands of fibrous tissue that cause pelvic organs and tissue to adhere to each other
In addition to pain and discomfort, you may develop fertility problems with endometriosis.
What causes endometriosis?
No definitive cause for endometriosis has been determined, though a number of potential causes have been put forward by researchers and most believe that a combination of factors are responsible that include:
- Retrograde menstruation – this is when menstrual blood that contains endometrial cells backflow through the fallopian tubes and the pelvic cavity
- Genetics – the condition may have a genetic component as it runs in families
- Immune system dysfunction
- Exposure to outside environmental influences
You may be at a higher risk of developing endometriosis if:
- Your mother, sister or daughter had it
- Your menstrual cycle began before age 11
- You have 27 days or less between menstrual cycles
- Your periods last for more than 7 days and the flow is heavy
Conversely, researchers have found that pregnancy and those who began menstruating later in adolescence had a lower risk of developing the condition. Low body fat amounts and regular exercise of more than four hours per week also reduce the risk.
Endometriosis signs and symptoms
Pain is the primary symptom of endometriosis and it often worsens over time. The pain typically coincides with your normal menstrual cycle, but the pain experienced with the condition is more severe than the cramping associated with a period.
Endometriosis can exhibit the following symptoms:
- Painful periods and cramping that may begin before the onset of your period and may continue for several days after your cycle starts
- Periods that are sometimes heavy, bleeding between menstrual cycles, and pre-period spotting
- Pain during and/or after sex
- Pain upon urination or bowel movements during your period
Many women diagnosed with endometriosis also experience bloating and nausea, diarrhea or constipation, along with lack of energy and fatigue.
It is imperative that you see your gynecologist, since the symptoms of endometriosis can be mistaken for other causes of pelvic pain that includes:
- Ovarian cysts
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
The level of pain you experience isn’t an accurate reflection of the condition’s severity. You may have a relatively mild case of endometriosis and have severe pain, while others with advanced cases may experience little or no pain at all.
Some women also experience milder symptoms of endometriosis following menopause.
Endometriosis diagnosis and treatment
The only way to provide an absolutely definitive diagnosis is through surgery, typically performed using laparoscopic methods to obtain a tissue sample for a biopsy, and it may be combined with an MRI or ultrasound.
There’s no cure for endometriosis, but there are effective treatment methods. When making a diagnosis, Dr. Cook will consider your symptoms and their severity, your age and if you want to have children.
Dr. Cook will assist you in determining which option is best for you as there’s no blanket treatment that works for everyone.
Treatment options may include:
- Over-the-counter or prescription medications
- Hormone therapy
- Surgical solutions
The symptoms of endometriosis are similar to a variety of conditions making it imperative that you see your gynecologist for an accurate diagnosis.
If you experience symptoms that may be attributed to endometriosis, speak with your gynecologist immediately to get a proper diagnosis.
Remember, endometriosis may affect your ability to have children.
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