Endometriosis is one of the most devastating and misunderstood diseases in the world today. It is estimated that there are over 80 million women and girls who have Endometriosis world-wide. Endometriosis is the abnormal growth of cells (endometrial cells) similar to those that form the inside of the uterus but in a location outside of the uterus. This number is growing all the time. It is more common than breast cancer or Aids, and many other diseases, that well known.
Endometrial tissue lines the inside of the uterus. In endometriosis, this tissue grows outside of the uterus.
Endometriosis may develop in the:
- Outside surface of the uterus
- Pelvis and lower abdomen
- Fallopian tubes
- Spaces between the bladder, uterus and rectum
- Wall of the rectum, bladder, intestines or appendix (less commonly)
- Lung, arm, thigh and skin. (This is rare.)
- Misplaced endometrial tissue behaves like endometrial tissue in the uterus. It responds to the monthly rise and fall of female hormones. It also can ooze blood during menstruation. This can cause pelvic or abdominal pain.
- As misplaced endometrial tissue grows, it can interfere with a woman’s fertility. It may cover or grow into the ovaries. Or it may distort or block the fallopian tubes.
Each month, in a normal menstrual cycle:
- The ovaries (the organs where egg cells develop) produce hormones (the body’s chemical messengers) that stimulate the cells of the uterine lining – the endometrial cells – to multiply and prepare for a fertilized egg. These cells swell and thicken.
- If a pregnancy does not occur, this excess tissue is shed from the uterus and discharged from the body.
- This discharge of tissue is a woman’s menstrual period.
- Patches of misplaced endometrial tissue implant themselves on organs outside of the uterus, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes rectum, and bladder.
- These cells also respond to the ovaries’ hormonal signals by swelling and thickening.
- However, these cells are unable to separate themselves and shed from the tissue to which they have adhered. They sometimes bleed a little and then heal.
- This happens repeatedly each month, and the ongoing process can cause scarring. It also can create adhesions, which are web-like tissues that can bind pelvic organs together.
Most women who have endometriosis, in fact, do not have symptoms. Of those who do experience symptoms, the common symptoms are pain (usually pelvic) and infertility.
One of the biggest problems regarding Endometriosis is that the signs of this disease in the early stages, appear to be the ‘normal’ bodily changes that take place with the menstrual cycle.
It is only as time goes by that a woman begins to suspect that what is happening, and the symptoms she feels are not normal. The pain of her menstrual cycle gradually and steadily becomes worse and worse as the months go by. This is only the beginning of what will become a gradual decline in a woman’s general health, as well as the health of her reproductive system.
Those who have symptoms may experience:
- Severe menstrual discomfort, usually with heavy menstrual flow
- Pain in the pelvis or abdomen, usually just before or during menstruation
- Pain during or immediately after sexual intercourse
- Vaginal spotting before menstruation begins
- Bowel symptoms, such as:
- Painful bowel movements
- Rarely, blood in the stool
- Painful urination, or, rarely, blood in the urine
- Infertility or repeated miscarriages
Symptom severity generally depends on the location of the endometriosis rather than its size.
Other symptoms which are common with Endometriosis include:
- Low grade fevers
- Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)
- Susceptibility to infections, allergies
Conditions That Can Cause Similar Symptoms
There are a number of conditions that can cause symptoms similar to endometriosis, including:
- A problem with an intrauterine device (IUD), which is used for birth control
- Pelvic infection
- Ovarian cysts caused by other conditions
- Painful periods, where no specific cause has been found
- Psychosexual problems, such as an extremely distressing past experience (for example, a rape or sexual abuse)
Facts About Endometriosis
- Endometriosis is fairly common, and there is no other condition in medicine quite like it.
- Estimates vary widely, but endometriosis is believed to affect about 5 to 15 percent of women of reproductive age.
- Endometriosis is most common among women who are in their 30s and 40s.
- Endometriosis begins only after menstruation begins; the disease has never been found in young women who have not yet begun to menstruate.
- Endometriosis is no longer active in women who have reached menopause.
- Little is known about why some women develop endometriosis and others do not.
- Endometriosis is more common among Caucasian women.
- Endometriosis appears to run in families.
Treatment of Endometriosis
Conventional medicine confesses that there is no cure for endometriosis. For them the treatment options depend on the goal of the patient and can differ if the woman wants to get pregnant or is focused on treating pain. The two most common general classes of treatment are medicines and surgery. Pain medicines, Birth control pills, Hormones often stops menstruation and shrinks implants, but it can cause effects, provide only temporary pain relief, and will prevent a woman from becoming pregnant.
Surgical treatments have been said to help in reducing the pain, but the endometriosis recurrence rate is thought to be as high as 40%.