Unfortunately, there is no known “for sure” cause of this disease; however, many researchers are studying multiple hypotheses including genetic factors, immune system issues and hormonal imbalances.
Read on to learn more about this disease, its symptoms, diagnoses and treatments.
WHAT IS ENDOMETRIOSIS?
Endometriosis (endo) is a disease where endometrium-like tissue (tissue that lines the uterus or womb) grows outside of an individual’s uterus and on other areas such as a woman’s ovaries, fallopian tubes, outer surface of the uterus or on the tissues that hold the uterus in place.
Even though this tissue is on the outside of the uterus, it acts like it’s on the inside. During an individual’s menstrual cycle, the tissue would normally be discharged; however, because it’s on the outside of the uterus, the blood from the tissue has nowhere to go.
This tissue around the affected area can become inflamed, resulting in scar tissue developing.
The endo growths are benign (not cancerous); however, problems can still arise:
- Blockage of fallopian tubes, trapping blood in the ovaries, which can form cysts
- Formation of scar tissue, which can cause pelvic pain
- Intestinal and bladder issues
- Decreasing an individual’s chances of getting pregnant
Other affected areas can include the vagina, cervix, vulva, bowel, bladder or rectum.
SYMPTOMS OF ENDOMETRIOSIS
Symptoms of this disease include, but are not limited to:
- Extremely painful menstrual cramps
- Chronic pain in the lower back and pelvis
- Pain during sex
- Pain after sex
- Intestinal pain
- Painful bowel movements
- Bleeding between periods
- Spotting between periods
WHO CAN HAVE THIS DISEASE?
Women in their 30s and 40s are more likely to have this disease; however, individuals who have never had children, had periods that last more than seven days, have short menstrual cycles or have had a family member who has it will be more likely to have endometriosis.
IS IT DIAGNOSABLE?
Endometriosis can be suspected.
- Pelvic Exam: During this exam, your doctor will be looking for cysts or scars behind your uterus.
- Imaging Testing: Imaging testing will take scans of your reproductive organs.
- Medicine: If cysts are not found during your exam or imaging tests, the doctor may prescribe hormonal birth control. If the pain lessens during your period, you could have endometriosis.
- Laparoscopy: A laparoscope (a tube with a light in it) is inserted in the abdomen through a small incision. This device can be moved through the abdomen because it has been filled with carbon dioxide gas to make the organs easier to see. This will allow your surgeon to check the condition of the organs for endometriosis.
While there is no cure, it can be treated. After discussing your symptoms, your doctor will administer tests (as mentioned above) and then sit down with you to discuss your diagnosis and treatment options.
It is important to make an appointment with your care provider if you think you have this or are having symptoms.
This disease cannot be prevented; however, your pain can be reduced by limiting your cycles.
- Your doctor can talk with you about hormonal birth control
- ethods like the pill, rings or other injectables.
- You can exercise regularly, which can also decrease the level of estrogen moving through the body thereby reducing your pain.
- Drink alcohol and caffeine in moderation.
MYTHS ABOUT ENDOMETRIOSOS
Because there is a lack of public awareness about endometriosis, it can be heavily misunderstood.
Common misconceptions include:
- Periods are just painful. This is false. If your daily life is being affected by period pain, there is a problem.
- Young women can’t get endometriosis. As mentioned above, women in their 30s and 40s are more likely to have it, but every girl is susceptible.
- Pregnancy cures endo. Pregnancy can temporarily suppress symptoms.
- Having this disease means you are infertile. This is not true. Infertility is a symptom of endometriosis; however, it does not mean every woman will have this symptom.
- There are no emotional problems resulting from this disease. This is false. Women can suffer from the stress of the symptoms.
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