Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus develops outside of the uterus. About 2 to 10% of all women of child-bearing age are affected by it — about 6.5 million women in the US. Women who have a family history of the disease, long menstrual periods lasting longer than 7 days, or shorter menstrual cycles lasting 27 days or fewer, or problems affecting the release of menstrual blood from the body are most susceptible. Any woman who gets a period may suffer from it, though it typically affects women in their 30s or 40s.
The disease derives its name from the endometrium, the tissue that normally lines the uterus or womb. It is most often found in:
- Fallopian tubes
- Tissues that hold the uterus in place
- Outer surface of the uterus
But it can also be found in the vagina, cervix, vulva, bowel, bladder, or rectum. Rarer cases may even involve other parts of the body, such as the lungs, brain, and skin.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
Women who suffer from endometriosis may experience painful periods, including cramps extending several days into the menstrual period. They may also experience pain during intercourse or suffer from painful bowel movements or urination. Their menstrual periods tend to involve excessive bleeding, and may involve bleeding between periods. About 50% of women who suffer from endometriosis are infertile. Some women may also experience fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating or nausea, especially during menstrual periods.
Severe pain alone is not a reliable sign of whether or not you have endometriosis. Some women may have mild endometriosis with severe pain, or severe endometriosis with little to know pain.
Health Problems with Endometriosis
Fortunately, endometriosis is not cancerous. However, it does introduce numerous health problems. These include:
- Blocked fallopian tubes when growths cover or grow surrounding the ovaries. Trapped blood in the ovaries can form cysts.
- Inflammation (swelling)
- Scar tissue formation as well as adhesions (type of tissue that can bind your organs together). This scar tissue may cause pelvic pain and make it hard for you to get pregnant.
- Intestine and bladder problems
Causes of Endometriosis
No one knows for sure what causes endometriosis, but doctors are investigating a number of issues. Trouble with menstrual flow is a likely cause — as some of the tissue shed during your period can flow through the fallopian tube into other areas of the body, such as the pelvis. It may also stem from problems with your immune system — as a faulty immune system may fail to destroy endometrial tissue growing outside of the uterus. Hormones and hereditary are also suspected causes.
Treatment for Endometriosis
Though there is no cure for endometriosis, there are a number of treatment options available. The approach your doctor chooses depends greatly on your desire to get pregnant.
If you are not interested in getting pregnant, hormonal birth control is usually the first approach. Your period cycle can be extended so you have fewer periods. Another option is an Intrauterine device (IUD) to help reduce pain and bleeding. The IUD protects against pregnancy for 7 years, but may not continue to reduce the pain associated with endometriosis for that long.
If you are interested in pregnancy, a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist might be helpful. This will prevent your body from making the hormones responsible for ovulation, the menstrual cycle, and the growth of endometriosis. This effectively causes a temporary menopause, but it also helps control the growth of endometriosis. Your menstrual cycle returns once you stop taking the hormone, which may increase your pregnancy odds.
In Dr.B’s experience much of the pain attributed to endometriosis is often myofascial and can go away as pelvic, abdominal, and thigh fascia unkinks and heals