Many of us have heard the term endometriosis and many wonder if they have endometriosis symptoms. It is tossed about in casual conversation like head ache and sprain ankle. But what exactly is it? Unless you have had cause to investigate further than your casual conversations your knowledge is probably limited to fertility issues and pain in the pelvic area. Well, pelvic pain and infertility are only symptoms caused by endometriosis, not the disease itself.
Endometriosis is a condition where the tissue that lines the inner portion of the uterus grows in the pelvic cavity outside the uterus. The extent of the extrauterine growth is rated on a scale of 1-4, with 4 being the most severe. Endometriosis is fairly common effecting approximately one is every five females.
As mentioned above pain is one of the most prevalent endometriosis symptoms. The pain associated with endometriosis is varied. It ranges from severe menstrual cramping, that often get worse over time to painful intercourse. Dyschezia and dysuria (painful bowel movements and painful urination) are also common. General pelvic pain that is chronic or cyclical in nature, often accompanied by pain in the lower back is also a calling card of endometriosis. As you may have noticed pain caused by endometriosis can take many forms.
In addition to pain symptoms other effects of endometriosis are: Nausea and vomiting, or diarrhea, depression, fatigue and infertility or lower than average fertility. Despite this long list of symptoms, some women have the condition with no symptoms what so ever. It is only discovered as a result of medical treatment for other reasons that it is ever found.
The precise cause of endometriosis is still up for debate, as is so often the case with the human body despite our medically advanced culture. There are many theories.
What we do know for sure it is that the disease is very much affected by estrogen. In fact it is dependant on it. That is why almost all cases of endometriosis are in women of reproductive age. Some medical experts theorize that excess estrogen created during a woman’s menstrual cycle encourages the formation endometrial tissues outside the uterus.
It also does seem to have a genetic link. Women who have a first degree relative with endometriosis are 10 times more likely to have endometriosis than the general population.
In addition to genetics and excess estrogen, weaknesses in the immune system are also being studied as possible causes. Each month during menses many women have a backward flow. This means some of the uterine lining actually sloughs off through the fallopian tubes into the pelvis. The immune system usually clears up the renegade endometrial cells. In women who develop endometriosis however, this may not be the case.
It is important to talk to your doctor. Treatments range form medication to surgery. Medications like Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are common. Some women find relief with herbal supplements and alternative medicine like wild yam creams or acupuncture.
Laparoscopic surgery can be effective to remove the endometrial growth, but does not guarantee that it won’t come back. Other surgeries include hysterectomy and Laparotomy.
In some cases menopause clears up endometriosis symptoms. Discuss your options with your doctor to decide what is right for you.