Woman experiencing pain in her pelvic area

Endometriosis

Endometriosis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Endometriosis is a disorder where the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. The tissue can affect the pelvic cavity, intestines, urinary bladder, and ovaries. The disorder gets its name because this tissue is called the endometrium. It tissue thickens, bleeds, and is shed during a menstrual period.

What Causes Endometriosis?

Doctors don’t know why some women develop endometriosis. However, there are a few theories.

One theory is that the menstrual blood and endometrial tissue backflows through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity instead of being flushed out of the body.

Another theory is that other doctors believe that cells in the pelvic cavity are transformed into endometrial cells by hormones or that stem cells in the abdomen turn into endometrial cells.

Also, some doctors believe endometrial tissue may escape into the pelvic cavity because of a surgical scar or that the lymphatic system takes the cells out of the uterus and deposits them in the pelvic cavity.

Lastly, some medical researchers believe that the disorder is even a type of autoimmune disease, that the seeds of the disease begin when the woman is still a fetus or that her genetic background or toxins in the environment predispose her to it.

Symptoms of Endometriosis

Endometriosis symptoms vary from one patient to the other. Some women have severe symptoms while in other women, they are mild or even silent. The severity doesn’t correlate to the degree of the disease. A woman who has a disease that is considered mild can still experience excruciating pain.

Many women experience:

  • Pelvic discomfort
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Discomfort in the lower part of the abdomen that starts before menstruation and continues during menstruation
  • Cramps that begin in the week or fortnight before the menstrual period
  • Heavy periods or spotting
  • Painful intercourse
  • Infertility
  • Uncomfortable bowel movements
  • Lower backache

Treatment for Endometriosis

Though there’s no cure for this condition, it can be treated in several ways.

One can begin with over-the-counter painkillers, but these may not fully erase the experienced pain. The doctor can prescribe stronger painkillers, if needed.

Some doctors start their patients on hormone therapy. Hormone therapy not only eases the discomfort but regulates the monthly cycles. Other doctors prescribe birth control pills or patches to their patients since hormonal birth control stops the endometrial tissue in the pelvis from building up. Some women have found relief through injections of medroxyprogesterone.

Other women are prescribed gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonists, and agonists. These stop the body from producing estrogen, which results in false menopause.

If these conservative treatments don’t help, the doctor may recommend a conservative form of surgery. This is an option for women who want to get pregnant (at some point in their life) or who experiences debilitating pain. During these conservative surgeries, the doctor removes the endometrial tissue by vaporizing it with a laser.

If the woman does not wish to become pregnant, and nothing else is significantly easing her problems, the doctor may perform a total hysterectomy. During this surgery, not only the uterus but the estrogen-producing ovaries are removed. The surgeon also takes away the endometrial implants.