Endometriosis is when tissue that looks like the endometrium (the uterine lining) grows outside the uterus. It generates a long-term, inflammatory response that can lead to scar tissue formation (adhesions, fibrosis) in the pelvis and other regions of the body. Pieces of the uterine lining, or tissue that looks like it, can grow outside of the uterus on other pelvic organs where it doesn’t belong. These growths are called endometrial implants. As a result, the tissue thickens and bleeds outside the uterus — just like endometrial tissue does during menstrual periods.
It is commonly believed to affect 10% of females globally within their reproductive period. They are widely discovered in the pelvis or abdomen. They can also grow on sensitive areas like the lining/organs of the fallopian tubes and the ovaries. In most cases, the tissue grows and sheds throughout the menstrual cycle — just like the endometrium. However, as time passes, the shed tissue becomes imprisoned since it has nowhere else to go. This results in inflammation, scarring, and cysts, posing more threats to the body.
Types of Endometriosis
Medical experts group endometriosis in types and stages. There are four types of endometriosis:
- Superficial Peritoneal Endometriosis: Here, the endometrial tissue attaches itself to the peritoneum (a thin membrane that lines your abdomen and pelvis). It is the least severe type.
- Endometriomas: Also known as “Chocolate cysts,” they are dark, fluid cysts that vary in size and attach to any part of the pelvis and abdomen, though they mostly appear in the ovaries.
- Deeply Infiltrating Endometriosis (DIE): Here, the endometrial tissue invades the organs within or outside your pelvic cavity. The ovaries, rectum, bladder, and bowels may all be affected. It’s uncommon, but scar tissue can sometimes bind organs together, causing them to become stuck in place. This is known as “frozen pelvis.” However, only 1% to 5% of persons with endometriosis experience this.
- Abdominal Wall Endometriosis: Endometrial tissue can grow on the abdominal wall in some circumstances. The cells could attach to a surgical wound, such as a C-section incision.
Stages: Depending on the size of the tissue, its depth, and the areas affected, it will classify under the four stages of endometriosis. These are:
- Stage 1 (Minimal): These are a few small implants, wounds, or lesions, with no presence of scar tissue.
- Stage 2 (Mild): There are many more than in stage one, with little or no scar tissue.
- Stage 3 (Moderate): These may be deep implants. The presence of small cysts in one or both ovaries and thick scar tissue (aka adhesions) may be found.
- Stage 4 (Severe): This is the most painful and dangerous stage. There could be deep implants, thick adhesions, and large cysts on the ovaries.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Extremely painful or disabling menstrual cramps
- Pain during or after sexual intercourse
- Stomach bloating and nausea
- Depression or anxiety
- Easily fatigued
- Painful urination
- Chronic pain in lower back and abdomen
More severe symptoms include:
Diagnosis of Endometriosis
Endometriosis has a wide range of symptoms, making it difficult for experts to diagnose. This causes many people to suffer from its lack of awareness. Therefore, it can often lead to a long period between the start of symptoms and the diagnosis. A key factor to detecting endometriosis is critically examining the history of menstrual symptoms and chronic pain. Even with the development of practical testing tools, it is still tricky to correctly diagnose it. However, if you suffer from one (or more) of the symptoms listed above, consult your doctor immediately. Endometriosis has no known cure at the moment, thus therapy is mainly focused on symptom management.
Treatment for Endometriosis
Effective treatments of endometriosis heavily depend on the type, stage/duration of the illness, and patient’s preferences. To change the hormonal conditions that induce endometriosis, medical treatments focus on lowering estrogen or raising progesterone. Standard therapies include:
- Surgery for large cysts and adhesions
- Prescribed medications from a health professional
- Hormonal therapy includes gonadotropin release, progestin therapy, and aromatase inhibitors
- Fertility treatment like contraceptive steroids
- Analgesic (aka pain killers)
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
Always consult your doctor before taking any treatment measures.
How to Manage Endometriosis
The best treatment measure is to consult your doctor if you have any symptoms — the most common of which is excruciating menstrual cramps. Early diagnosis makes treatment easier and more effective. Other vital tips are:
- Avoid or minimize alcohol and caffeine
- Make healthy lifestyle changes, like exercising regularly
- Dietary improvements like eating fruits and vegetables, reducing red meats, and cutting down on fast/processed foods
- Be disciplined with your treatment
Can someone with endometriosis get pregnant? Yes, you can but it could be more complex than not. Consult your doctor and gynecologist about the possibilities of conceiving.
Does endometriosis end after menopause? After menopause, some women’s painful endometriosis symptoms improve. The growths gradually decrease as the body stops producing estrogen. Some women on menopausal hormone therapy, however, may still experience endometriosis symptoms.
What causes endometriosis?
- Problems with the menstrual period flow
- Genetic factors
- Immune system problems
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!