Endometriosis is a disorder characterized by endometrial tissue growing outside the uterus. Let’s discuss the symptoms, causes, and possible treatment options.
The endometrium is a tissue within the uterus consisting of blood cells, glands and connective tissue. It prepares the womb lining for ovulation. When the endometrial cells increase and bundle up, they form endometrial implants. The growth of the endometrial implants outside the uterus yields endometriosis. Endometrial implants can attach anywhere within the female body but often buildup in the pelvic girdle.
Types of Endometriosis
One of three types of endometriosis may occur:
- Superficial Peritoneal Lesion: This is the most prevalent type. Wounds (lesions) develop on the pelvic cavity lining.
- Endometrioma: Chocolate-dark cysts filled with fluid develop within the ovaries.
- Infiltrating Endometriosis: The endometrial implants grow under the pelvic cavity lining and spread to neighboring organs such as the bladder and rectum. It is a lethal form of the disorder.
The disorder has four tiers:
- Stage One (Minimal): Small wounds and endometrial implants start developing in the ovaries. However, no scars are formed.
- Stage 2 (Mild): The wounds (lesions) increase within the ovaries, but no scar tissue forms yet.
- Stage 3 (Moderate): Increased wounds and deep implants are found in the ovaries. Scar tissue develops in the fallopian tube.
- Stage 4 (Severe): Deep and advanced lesions are found in both the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Cysts start forming along the uterus and lower alimentary canal.
What Are the Common Symptoms?
The most prevalent symptoms include the following:
- Abnormally heavy menstrual flow that requires changing sanitary towels every one or two hours
- Severe back pain
- Dysmenorrhea, or painful menstrual periods
- Discomfort during bowel movements
- Painful intercourse
- Acute menstrual cramps
- Bloodshot urine and stool
- Prolonged fatigue
- Harsh allergic reactions
What Causes Endometriosis?
The definite cause of this disorder is not clear. However, research points to the following possibilities:
- Genetics—a woman is likely to inherit the condition from a close family member.
- Surgical scars—endometrial cells may move outside the uterus during surgical procedures such as a c-section or hysterectomy.
- Retrograde menstruation—this happens when menstrual blood containing endometrial implants and cells flows back into the fallopian tube instead of being expelled. The endometrial implants end up jabbing into the pelvic cavity and bleed across each menstrual cycle.
- Embryonic growth—in peculiar cases, the embryo cells within the abdomen mutate and develop into endometrial cells during puberty.
- Low immunity—a weak immune system cannot fight off young implants within the uterus at the early stages.
Upon visiting your doctor, you are likely to get the following tests:
- Physical Examination: The doctor will feel your abdomen for the presence of scars or cysts. A physical examination may not give a precise diagnosis, however.
- Ultrasound: High-frequency imaging captures and generates images of your reproductive system. From these images, the doctor spots the presence of cysts and lesions within your organs.
- Laparoscopy: The doctor makes a small incision across your belly button and inserts a thin tube with a camera into the abdominal area. The laparoscope gives detailed and precise imaging of the uterus and endometrial cells.
There’s Life Beyond Endometriosis
Suffering from endometriosis is never a death sentence. Although there’s no exact cure for the disorder, there are several treatment options to deal with the symptoms and alleviate the discomfort. Some of the available medical treatment options include the following:
This is the treatment to alter your levels of hormones causing endometriosis. They include the following:
- Progestin Therapy: Progestin therapy hormones control the production of progesterone within the body. Progestin pills, contraceptive implants and injections halt the normal menstrual cycle and mitigate the implants’ growth.
- Aromatase Therapy: Aromatase truncates the estrogen levels within the body system, thus fighting off the endometrial implants.
- Hormonal Contraceptives: They prevent the usual monthly cycle and development of the endometrial cells. Famous examples are vaginal rings, birth control pills and patches. These hormonal contraceptives also relieve pain greatly.
Surgery works for those who need to get pregnant but are suffering from the disorder. It entails the removal of the endometrial implants while preserving the ovaries and uterus.
This is the last-resort treatment. The doctor removes the uterus, ovaries and cervix onto which the cysts and lesions have build up. The ovaries produce estrogen, which is responsible for the growth of the endometrium.