Endometriosis is a health condition characterized by the occurrence of uterine tissue outside the uterus. Such occurrence can occur in the ovaries, in the fallopian tubes, at the back or posterior part of the uterus, within the pelvic area, in the urinary bladder or in the intestines. It is estimated that about 10% of child-bearing age suffer from this condition regardless of status or race. Indeed, it is estimated that over 6 million of women in the USA and Canada suffer from the condition. Endometriosis is neither an infection nor a tumor of any kind.
Your body naturally experiences hormonal changes on a monthly basis. These changes cause the lining in your womb to enlarge in preparation to receive fertilized egg. Lack of pregnancy causes the lining to break down, causing menstrual flow. In the case of endometriosis, similar cells that form the lining of the womb grow outside the uterus. The can grow in the fallopian tubes, at the back or posterior side of the uterus, within the pelvic region, in the intestines or any other location in your abdomen. These cells behave in the same manner as those in the uterus do. Hey also bleed each month. Unlike bleeding with the uterus that flows out every month as menstrual flow, the resultant blood from cells outside the uterus has no escape route. It remains within your body.
Having endometriosis can be very devastating especially if you fail to seek medical attention in good time. This is because it can cause internal scarring, development of pelvic cysts, development of cysts in the ovaries, obstruction of urethra and infertility.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
Although endometriosis causes a number of symptoms, the two most common symptoms turn out to be a recurrent pain. You are most likely to experience recurring pain in different ways:
- Cramps – You are most likely to experience cramps at the time of menstruation. It is also possible to experience persistent pain at your lower back.
- Painful sex – Having endometriosis can hinder the enjoyment of sex. You are bound to experience pain in your belly as the result of resultant pressure.
- Painful urination – You are most likely to experience pain when urinating. It is also possible to develop constant urgency to urinate.
- Painful legs – You are bound to experience gnawing and at times throbbing pain in your legs especially when walking.
- Pelvic pain – It is highly possible to experience either mild or severe stabbing pain in your pelvic and rectal areas.
Unlike some of the most common health conditions, the level of pain associated with endometriosis is not an indication of how mild or severe the condition is. There are women who have the condition for several years without their knowledge and still experience mild pain.
Apart from the different types of pain, it is also possible to experience some other symptoms. These include diarrhea/constipation, general body weakness, constant headache, persistent fever and heavy/irregular menstrual flow.
Causes of Endometriosis
The exact cause or causes of endometriosis remain(s) unknown. However, it is believed that the condition develops as a result of various possible reasons one of which is retrograde menstruation. It is widely believed that the condition can develop when part of menstrual flow enters the fallopian tube(s) where it attaches to the lining of tubes on which the cells grow.
There are also medical experts who are of the opinion that over exposure to toxic environment especially in an environment contaminated with lead, nickel and dioxin can lead to the development of the condition.
Development of the condition has also been noted in women who suffer from Graves’s disease, which points to the fact that women who have the disease remain at higher risk of developing endometriosis. Grave’s disease is generally characterized by problems in thyroid gland.
The occurrence of endometriosis has also been linked to genetics, meaning that you are at risk of developing the condition in case it runs in your blood line. Low level of progesterone hormone and unexplained changes in specific chromosomes has widely been cited as genetic causes of the condition.
Treatment of Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a devastating health condition that requires proper treatment. This is only possible after correct diagnosis. You are bound to be subjected to a number of tests in case your doctor suspects that you have the condition. Diagnosis normally involves such tests as laparoscopy, staging, use of biomarker and evaluation of medical history.
It is important to note that there is no certain cure for endometriosis. Treatment options available are only aimed at managing the condition. Apart from medications prescribed to manage the associated pain, your doctor is also most likely to prescribe such other hormonal medications as progestin/progesterone that inhibits further growth of the condition. It is also possible for your doctor to prescribe such other medications as morphine sulfate tablets and NSAIDs to help in managing the associated inflammation within.
It is only in extreme cases where your doctor can recommend surgical treatment. This is usually the case where the condition has caused adhesion in your pelvic area and surgical treatment is undertaken to restore the same. You may also be subjected to surgical procedures that remove the growing cells while leaving the uterus intact. This only happens in case you still plan to conceive in future. For women who do not plan to conceive, hysterectomy can be performed. This is the procedure where the uterus is removed. It also involves excision and removal of the resultant grown cells.
Neurectomy is the other surgical treatment that your doctor can recommend although it is rarely performed due to possible complications. The surgical treatment involves cutting and removal of all nerves that connect to the uterus.
There are several ways you can help minimize the impact of the condition before you receive actual treatment. One of the most effective ways to keep yourself comfortable by managing the associated pain is to engage in regular exercises. Bathing with warm water and regularly placing heating pad or sponge in your pelvic area is also very effective in reducing pain. It is important that you only take these measures in case it takes time to receive proper treatment for the condition.