What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a medical condition affecting women. It a gynecological condition characterized by the displacement of cells of the uterus lining that is, the endometrium. These displaced cells are found in the ovaries, rectum, bladder, fallopian tubes, intestines or vagina. This condition causes severe pain, heavy menstruation and the inability to get pregnant.
Facts About Endometriosis
- Endometriosis is estimated to affect 3% to 18% of women
- The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown
- Most women diagnosed with endometriosis are between the ages twenty five years to forty years
- Endometriosis is said to interfere with a woman’s ability to get pregnant though it does not fully prevent conception hence the term subfertility
- Endometriosis can spread all the way to the chest, lungs and eyes through lymphatic and vascular channels
- Sometimes women can suffer from this condition and not suffer from any pain or other symptoms
- Endometriosis can spread to the brain leading to seizures and headaches though this is rare
- Endometriosis is the leading cause of hysterectomy
What are The Causes of Endometriosis?
The exact cause of endometriosis is still unknown. Several theories with limited evidence have been put forth by scientists to explain this condition. Nevertheless, the following factors are said to greatly contribute to the acquiring of endometriosis:
- Genetic predisposition
- Hormonal dysfunction where large amounts of estrogen are produced
- Retrograde menstruation where menstrual blood flows backwards
- Exposure to environmental toxins such as dioxins
- Metaplasia which is an occurrence where normal tissue cells change into another type of specific tissue cells
- Lymphatic and vascular distribution of endometrial cells
- Immune system dysfunction
What are The Symptoms of Endometriosis?
- Pain during urination
- Pain during or after sexual intercourse
- Pain during menstruation. Pain can also be experienced just before or immediately after menstruation
- Pain during bowel movement especially during menstruation
- Pain during ovulation
- Disruption of bowel movement leading to diarrhea or constipation
- Irregular or heavy menstrual bleeding
- Blood in urine
- Chronic pain in the pelvic area that may be present throughout and not just during menstruation
Who Gets Endometriosis?
- Endometriosis is said to be more common among white women compared to African and Asian women.
- Women with a low body mass index are also at a higher risk.
- Women who opt to delay pregnancy are more likely to suffer from endometriosis compared to those who get pregnant early.
- Women who produce abnormally high levels of estrogen due to hormonal pathologies such as Estrogen Dominance Syndrome.
- Women who come from a family with a history of endometriosis are more likely to suffer from the condition.
- Women with immune disorders.
Why Does Endometriosis Cause Pain and Health Problems?
Endometriosis is said to cause so much pain and health problems because the displaced endometrial cells retain their characteristics. During a woman’s menstrual cycle, estrogen is produced to thicken the uterine lining. Failure of fertilization to take place leads to the shedding of these thickened cells. Displaced endometrial cells undergo the same process of thickening and shedding every month. It is this process that leads to so much pain in the areas where the displaced cells have migrated to such as the bladder and vagina. Other health problems associated with endometriosis include subfertility. This occurs when the displaced cells migrate to the ovary and interfere with the ovulation process.
What Increases* one’s Chances to get Endometriosis?
- Exposure to environmental toxins
- A history of the disease in the family that is, genetic predisposition
- Immune disorders
What Reduces* One’s Chances to get Endometriosis?
- Evidence, though limited, has shown that the use of combined oral contraceptives reduces* a woman’s chances of acquiring endometriosis.
- A medical history and physical exam are performed by the physician as the first step in diagnosing endometriosis.
- A pelvic ultrasound is performed to identify endometrial cysts.
- Laparoscopy is said to be the best way to identify endometriosis. This procedure is done by making a small incision in the pelvis and inserting a small camera to identify the problem.
- A biopsy is carried out on the endometrial cells to confirm the findings of the laparoscopic procedure.
- Treatment for The Pain: Pain relief is carried out by prescribing pain killers such as opioids and Pentoxyfilline which contains immune-modulating agents. Pain therapy can be combined with hormonal therapy to control estrogen production and regulate menstruation.
- Treatment for Infertility: Fertility medication can be used to induce ovulation. Other forms of fertility therapy are Intrauterine Insemination and In-vitro Fertilization.
- Surgery: Surgical procedures can be conservative or semi-conservative depending on the severity of the condition. Surgical options include hysterectomy, cystectomy and minimally invasive laparoscopic procedures.
Endometriosis has no cure*. It can only be managed in the following ways: treatment for the pain, treatment for infertility and surgical intervention in severe cases.
Endometriosis is a relatively common disease that can be hard to detect, particularly in women who are not showing any symptoms. The best way to detect it depends on your ability to identify any menstrual changes. In addition, going for regular gynecological checkups is never a bad idea. All in all, though the disease is incurable, it can be successfully managed and hardly ever leads to death.