Endometriosis is a common reproductive disorder in females. It is usually diagnosed between the ages of 25 to 35 years. Endometriosis is the most common cause of pelvic pain in women. Endometrial tissue is only found in the uterus however women suffering from endometriosis also have these tissues located in other areas of the body causing immense pain. Usually the endometrial tissue attaches to the ovaries, intestines and other abdominal organs. In rare cases this tissue can also be found outside of the abdomen like in the brain and lungs.
Who is at Risk of Endometriosis?
It has been estimated that as many as 5.5 million American women will have problems with endometriosis. This is not the true number of diagnosed cases though as many women have endometriosis without ever having a symptom. Caucasian women are at a higher risk of having endometriosis than African American or Asian women. Many women can have symptoms in their early teens to adulthood. Most cases are discovered during a womens 20′s to early thirties. This is often due to difficulties with conception. It has also been found that endometriosis is most commonly found in women who are tall and skinny with a low body mass index. This does not mean though that this is the only type of woman that can suffer from endometriosis. Women of all shapes and sizes can be effected by this debilitating condition.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
The symptoms of endometriosis can be very elusive. Many women never have a symptom of endometriosis even though they have the disease. The most common symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain. This generally occurs just before menstruation and during menstruation. Other symptoms of endometriosis are infertility issues and painful intercourse.
Causes of Endometriosis
While the exact cause of endometriosis is still unknown there are several theories.
The first theory is called retrograde menstruation. This is simply a backwards flow of the menstruation or period. When bleeding occurs the layer that is shed is the endometrium. It is thought that a backwards flow may have the ability to deposit the endometrium cells on the fallopian tubes, ovaries and the outer part of the uterus and even the space between the uterus, colon and the bladder.
Another theory is called coelomic metaplasia. This is also related to retrograde menstruation but in this theory it is thought that the cells of the ovaries and other reproductive parts can change into endometrium cells. This is thought to occur from the irritation by the backwards flow or even infections.
The third theory is that surgical procedures on the abdomen can cause a spread of endometrium cells. It is thought that surgical procedures such as C-sections can allow other tissues to be implanted with the endometrium cells due to exposure during the surgery. This theory can also explain the finding of endometrium cells throughout other parts of the body like the brain and lungs. In this case during the surgery the cells enter into the blood stream and implant where ever they end up like the lungs or brain.
The final theory is that it is possibly an immune system abnormality. It is unsure how this theory plays a role in the development of endometriosis.
Endometriosis Alternative Treatments
There is not a lot that women can do to treat endometriosis themselves without medical intervention. It is suggested that increased exercise has been found to relieve the pain associated with endometriosis in some women. Pregnancy is also one way to relieve and prevent the further development of endometriosis. Since the body is not shedding the endometrium lining it prevents the further development of endometriosis.
Over the Counter Treatments for Endometriosis
There are several over the counter pain killers that can be taken to reduce the pain associated with this disease. Non steroidal anti inflammatory drug’s are the most effective over the counter medication to reduce the pain associated with endometriosis.
When to Seek Medical Attention?
Since endometriosis is a chronic disease it can progress over time. If symptoms become worse or they begin to affect everyday life, sexual intercourse becomes painful or menstruation drastically changes it is important to see an OB/GYN. It is also good to be seen by this female organ doctor regularly for yearly evaluations and screenings.
Medical Treatments for Endometriosis
There are several treatments available for those who suffer from endometriosis. The first attempt to treat endometriosis is through medications. The key to this medical treatment is to change the levels of female hormones. This can be done through a variety of medication including birth control pills, GnRH analogs, Progestins, Androgens, Aromatase Inhibitors and also narcotic pain relievers. All these medications with the exception of the narcotic pain killers attempt to slow or reduce the endometriosis. The narcotic pain relievers are prescribed for those with severe pain from endometriosis that is not relieved through over the counter medications. It is important to discuss the use of these medication with your doctor as they all have side effects some of which can be permanent.
Another option to treat endometriosis is to have a surgical procedure. The first surgery is a laparoscopic surgery that removes the endometriosis from the reproductive organs. This is done with a camera guided tool. In many cases this type of surgery is needed not only to relieve pain associated with endometriosis but also to allow reproduction.
The next surgical treatment for endometriosis is to have a full hysterectomy. This will remove all of the female reproductive organs basically placing the woman into menopause.
In 40% of all surgery cases endometriosis has reoccurred even after surgery. The only cure for preventing the further spread of endometriosis currently is menopause. This is because the female hormones responsible for the growth of endometriosis are no longer present.
Other surgical procedures may be required if the endometrium cells have spread past the reproductive areas. Masses can be found throughout the body and may be removed if needed.