Endometriosis: What You Don't Know Could Hurt You

| Women's Health

Despite the vast amount of knowledge of the human body that has been accumulated over the years, one illness that affects women in particular, still remains a medical mystery; endometriosis. According to the Endometriosis Research Center, an estimated 176 million women and girls around the world suffer from endometriosis, with 6.3 million of those women being located in the U.S (via Endometriosis Association).

menstrual cramps

Not only is endometriosis a debilitating and painful condition, it is also a very costly one to treat. Over $119 billion is spent annually on this illness, and still there is no cure in sight. For conditions like this, awareness is key. If you are concerned about your well-being, or the well-being of a loved one, be sure to check out the information below.

What is Endometriosis? Endometriosis is a condition where the tissue grows outside of the uterus on to other organs or structures in the body. It is most commonly found on the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the tissues that hold the uterus in place, or the lining of the pelvic cavity.  For more information on where endometriosis can be located, visit the Office on Women's Health Website.

What are the Symptoms? The most common symptom associated with endometriosis is pain in the lower abdomen, pelvis, or lower back. This pain primarily occurs during menstrual periods, and may seem like very severe cramps, although the severity of the pain is not a direct indicator of the severity of the endometriosis. Other symptoms include: bloating, pain during or after sex, infertility and intestinal pain. Visit this link for a full list of symptoms.

Recent research has also revealed a correlation between other health problems in women and endometriosis. Some of these problems include: allergies, asthma, chemical insensitivities, autoimmune diseases, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Click here for a more detailed list of health problems associated with endometriosis.

What is the Cause? Unfortunately, an exact cause of endometriosis has not yet been identified. However, there are several popular theories, which include (via The National Health Service):

  • Retrograde menstruation: This is the most widely believed theory. Retrograde menstruation occurs when the womb lining flows backwards through the fallopian tubes and into the stomach, rather than leaving the body.
  • Genetics: Since it is most commonly found in Caucasian and Asian women, endometriosis is often believed to be hereditary.
  • Immune System: Many women who have been diagnosed with endometriosis also have lower immunity to other medical conditions as well.
  • Metaplasia: Metaplasia is the ability of one cell type to change into another cell type in order to adapt to its environment (most commonly seen during gestation). Some researchers believe that occasionally adult cells retain this ability to change, and during menstruation they transform into endometrial cells.

Visit the The National Health Service  or the Office on Women's Health for more information on and causes of this illness.

How is it Diagnosed? Since endometriosis can sometimes take up to 7 years to diagnose, it is important to visit your doctor as soon as possible if you believe you are exhibiting any of the symptoms. The most common ways to diagnose endometriosis are: pelvic exams, ultrasounds, and laparoscopies. For more information on these diagnostic methods, click this link.

What are the Treatments? Unfortunately there is no cure for endometriosis yet, but there are many treatments to eradicate pain, discomfort, and infertility. The most popular treatments include: pain medication, hormone treatments, or a variety of different surgeries. Many doctors also believe that diet can play a large role in endometriosis pain, and suggest a vegetarian lifestyle with minimal amounts of processed foods.

Endometriosis is a painful and uncomfortable illness to live with, so seek medical assistance as soon as possible if you are exhibiting any symptoms. The sooner you receive treatment for the symptoms, the sooner you can get back on track to enjoying your life.

For more information on endometriosis, check out these sites:

Endometriosis AssociationThe Office on Women's HealthThe National Health Service, and  The Endometriosis Research Center