Related Topics: Conditions

What Is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis has been in the news as it is being under diagnosed, but do you know what to look for?

AnnA Rushton

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis happens when tissue normally found inside the uterus grows in other parts of the body. It may attach to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the exterior of the uterus, the bowel, or other internal parts.

As hormones change during the menstrual cycle, this tissue breaks down and may cause painful adhesions, or scar tissue.

What causes it?

No one actually knows why, but there are several theories.  Heredity plays a role, and some endometrial cells may be present from birth. Another theory suggests that menstrual blood containing endometrial cells flows back through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity instead of out of the body. These cells are thought to stick to organs and keep growing and bleeding over time.

Cells could also move to the pelvic cavity other ways, such as during a Caesarian delivery, also a faulty immune system may fail to get rid of the misplaced cells.

It is also noticeable that heavy bleeding is often also seen in women with oestrogen dominance and whose progesterone levels are low.

What are the symptoms?

Pain just before, during, or after menstruation is the most common symptom and this may be the reason it often goes undiagnosed as women almost expect some level of pain or discomfort at that time of the month.

For some women, this pain may be disabling and may happen during or after sex, or during bowel movements or urination. It sometimes causes ongoing pain in the pelvis and lower back.

BUT, many women with endometriosis have mild or no symptoms at all as symptoms may be related to the location of the growths.

If you are not sure if this is just normal period cramping or endometriosis then if it is lasting more than two days, is not responding to over-the-counter pain medications, keeps you from your normal activities, or remains after your period is over then it is time to consult your doctor.

How endometriosis can affect your health

1   It can affect your fertility. Sometimes the first — or only — symptom of endometriosis is trouble getting pregnant. Infertility affects about a third of women with the condition, for reasons that aren’t well understood.

Scarring may be to blame. The good news is that medical treatments can help someone overcome infertility, and pregnancy itself can relieve some symptoms of endometriosis.

2   The pain or heavy bleeding you are experiencing may be fibroids, rather than endometriosis. These are noncancerous growths of the muscle tissue of the uterus.

Fibroids can cause severe cramps and heavier bleeding during your period, similar to endometriosis and the pain of endometriosis or fibroids can also flare up at other times of the month.

Are you at risk?

The condition is more common in women who:
• Are in their 30s and 40s
• Have not had children
• Have periods longer than 7 days
• Have cycles shorter than 28 days
• Started their period before age 12
• Have a mother or sister who had endometriosis

Before consulting your doctor it will help if you keep a record for a month or so to help them with diagnosis. What to record are:

• When the pain happens
• How bad it is
• How long it lasts
• A change or worsening of pain
• Pain that limits your activities
• Pain during sex, bowel movements, or urination

Medical options 

Your doctor will do a pelvic exam to check your ovaries, uterus, and cervix for anything unusual. An exam can sometimes reveal an ovarian cyst or internal scarring that may be due to endometriosis. The doctor also looks for other pelvic conditions that could cause symptoms similar to endometriosis.

Medically you may be offered an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI to help with diagnosis,  but a laparoscopy is the only sure way to determine if you have endometriosis.

A surgeon inflates the abdomen with gas through a small incision in the navel. A laparoscope is a viewing instrument that’s inserted through the incision. The surgeon can take small pieces of tissue for a lab to examine — called a biopsy — to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment from your doctor is likely to involve pain medication and often birth control pills or a coil.  The latter both contain synthetic progestins which may help make your menstrual periods shorter and lighter, but are associated with a number of side effects including weight gain.

Effective natural treatment 

Bioidentical natural progesterone is helpful at getting this heavy bleeding under control, but needs to be used continuously for the first two months, after which the normal monthly break can be taken.

Although it may be the last thing you feel like, regular exercise may help relieve pain by improving your blood flow and boosting endorphins, the body’s natural pain relievers.

Women have also founds some relief from acupuncture, yoga, massage, and meditation as they are all helpful in reducing stress, and inducing more relaxation, and stress itself does impact our hormonal system adversely.

Helpful information:

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