Endometriosis is a common gynecological condition with about 176 million cases all over the world. It is the development of uterine-lining tissue outside the uterus. These tissues form outside the uterus on places like the fallopian tubes, bowel, ovaries and other parts exterior to the womb.
It often occurs during the childbearing years of women who have it. In America, Endometriosis affects between 2% – 10% of American women between the ages of 25 – 40 years. There are an estimated 5 million cases in the US.
Africa has not yet recorded an alarming rate of the disorder. However, it could be because they are under-reported or records are not kept. Not reporting is commonly attributed to ignorance as it is commonly assumed to be the regular menstrual pain and discomfort.
Endometriosis occurs when the type of tissue that lines your uterus is also growing outside your uterus.
This is not one of those conditions caused by lifestyle or health habits. It is simply a gynecological disorder. Medical experts have not discovered what could be the cause of endometriosis.
Ordinarily what happens is that the endometrium which lines the walls of the womb thickens in readiness for an egg. If there is fertilization, the egg sticks to the endometrium and starts to grow. Where there is none, the endometrium bleeds and leaves the body during menses.
In a case of endometriosis, the clumps of endometrium tissues grow outside the womb (uterus) and are called implants. So during the period, these tissues exhibit similar reactions to the ones in the womb. The only difference is that this time the blood cannot flow out of the body.
As a result, they form fluid-filled sacs (cysts) or scar tissues which may make it hard to get pregnant. The implants usually grow on the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the outer wall of the uterus, the intestines, or other organs in the belly.
Researchers have discovered that the female estrogen hormones worsen the condition. According to Web Med, Endometriosis sometimes runs in families.
Retrograde menstruation has been the most common theory referred to regarding the possible cause of endometriosis. This is a situation whereby the menstrual blood does not leave the body through the vagina but flows back through the fallopian tubes into the pelvic cavity instead; forming the growth of tissues outside the uterus.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
Almost all the symptoms of endometriosis revolve around pains. For a woman who is conversant with dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain/cramps), there may not be any suspicious symptom. However, it causes abdominal pain, heavy periods, and infertility.
One of the most common symptoms would be severe menstrual pains. This pain can also occur during or after sex. There is also lower back pain that may occur long before a menstrual flow or during your cycle.
Heavy Menstrual Flow
A woman who has endometriosis will surely experience heavy bleeding during her cycle. This is because the abnormal growths outside the uterus also react to menstrual hormones; and so, during the person’s period, it is not just the uterine walls that shed, but also the tissues outside. There could also be the presence of clots in the menstrual blood.
The only way to know if one has endometriosis is through imaging tests like an ultrasound, an MRI, or a CT scan. Ultimately the condition is confirmed and treated through a laparoscopy.
Laparoscopy is a surgery in which the doctor puts a thin, lighted tube through a small incision (cut) in the belly. This helps the doctor to search for implants, scar tissue, or cysts which can equally be removed during the surgery.
Laparoscopy helps to reduce the irritation and pain; and may also help the patient to get pregnant.
Side by side to the possible positive outcomes, using surgery for endometriosis in some cases can cause infections, bleeding, or damage to affected organs.
Other treatments for endometriosis include:
Use of Pain Relievers: Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen can be used to reduce bleeding and pain.
Hormone Therapy: This treatment stops the period and shrinks the implants but the pain comes back after the treatment. It also reduces the chances of getting pregnant.
Among these options, only a surgery may ascertain a total cure of the disorder.