Updated: Feb 20
From pharmaceutical commercials to shared online stories, endometriosis is a condition that we are hearing more and more about these days. But just what is it? How do you know if you are a sufferer? And what does a future look like with endometriosis?
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition that occurs when the same tissue that makes up the lining of the uterus travels outside that realm and becomes present in other organs. It is typically found to occur in the cervix, vagina, bladder, ovaries, etc. – generally anything in the lower abdomen or pelvis is fair game, though it is far from exclusive and endometriosis can truly occur anywhere in the body.
Researchers estimate it affects between 5% - 10% of reproductive-aged girls and women, but the actual number may be higher, as it can only be surely diagnosed by seeing a professional.
First and foremost, the biggest common symptom is, sadly, pain. Excessive menstrual pain, lower abdomen pain, pain with intercourse – it is all fair game. That pain can be cyclical in nature, too, worsening around your period and then improving, or it can be a constant ache. There is also the possibility of irregular vaginal bleeding, bloating, constipation, blood in the urine and more.
What Does Endometriosis Do and How Is It Caused?
Endometriosis can affect the body in numerous ways. It is often associated with infertility – in fact, 20% - 40% of women who struggle with infertility have been diagnosed with endometriosis. This is due to the condition being able to distort the Fallopian tubes to be unable to pick up eggs or by causing adverse inflammation that affects normal ovary functions.
As mentioned, it also causes pain and poses danger due to unwanted tissue growing outside of typical areas.
As for what causes endometriosis, there are several possibilities and ideas. For one, it could be brought about by some blood and tissue from a normal period being inadvertently carried up through the Fallopian tubes and out into the abdomen, where it then interacts with previously untouched tissue and organs. Uterine lining cells may also travel along through blood vessels to reach other organs.
Another possibility is that some cells outside the uterus can mutate and become akin to cells inside the uterine wall. Surgery can also be a culprit if uterine cells are inadvertently attached to the incision and grow within the scar.
How is Endometriosis Treated?
If you suspect you may suffer from endometriosis, it is of utmost importance to consult with your doctor. They will be able to consult with you and, if needed, diagnose from there. Once endometriosis is accurately diagnosed, though, there are a few treatment avenues.
Non-steroid anti-inflammatory meds may be prescribed to help with the associated pain, while hormonal affecting medications may be administered as well. Additionally, there are certain contraceptives that release a hormone that places the body in a menopause-like state temporarily to halt the suffering.
Surgery is often the next step as it will physically remove the affected lesions and tissue growth, depending on severity.