Endometriosis: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Endometriosis is a disease that affects women and occurs when the uterine lining grows outside the uterus and on other organs. It most commonly affects the reproductive organs, but it can affect other organs as well and can even lead to cancer. Although the uterine tissue grows on other parts of the body, it continues to act the same as it does when it is in the uterus. It will shed tissue and bleed during each menstrual cycle. The blood has nowhere to go, so it becomes trapped in the body. It can cause pain and fertility problems.

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis Causes

The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown, but there are some possible explanations for the condition. These factors include:

  • Retrograde menstruation: This occurs when the menstrual blood flows backward into the fallopian tubes and pelvic cavity.
  • Hormonal problems: Hormones cause the cells that grow on the inside of the abdomen to change into uterine cells.
  • Embryonic cell transformation: Estrogen can change embryonic cells into uterine cells that grow in other parts of the body.
  • Surgical scars: After surgery such as a C-section or a hysterectomy, uterine cells can grow on the location of the surgery scar.
  • Immune system problems: The immune system doesn’t recognize that the uterine tissue growing outside the uterus should be destroyed, so it is left to spread.

Endometriosis Symptoms

Most women who suffer from endometriosis notice pelvic pain that worsens with sex or during menstruation. The pain may be chronic or may only occur for a few days each month. Many women compare the pain to severe menstrual cramps and avoid speaking with a doctor because they assume it is normal. The pain usually worsens over time and can even become debilitating.

  • Painful intercourse
  • Painful periods
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Painful urination
  • Heavy periods
  • Pelvic pain
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea or Constipation
  • Infertility

Endometriosis Symptoms

Endometriosis Diagnosis

Endometriosis can be diagnosed in a few different ways. Most doctors will ask the patient to describe the symptoms and the location of the pain. The doctor or gynecologist may also use different methods to confirm that endometriosis is the problem and to determine the severity and location of it. Some common tests include:

  • Pelvic exam: The gynecologist will check the pelvic area for any problems that may point to endometriosis or other issues.
  • Ultrasound: The doctor will take a look at the reproductive organs to determine if and where the endometriosis is occurring.
  • Laparoscopy: A small incision is made over the abdomen so the doctor can look inside and see if there are any signs of endometriosis.

Endometriosis Diagnosis

Endometriosis Treatment

Endometriosis can be treated with medication or surgery. The severity of the condition as well as the client’s age and overall health play a role in which treatment method is used. Some common treatment options include:

  • Pain medications: These medications help the patient deal with the pain of endometriosis.
  • Hormone therapy: This can help slow and control the progression of endometriosis.
  • Surgery: Surgery can be done to help remove the endometriosis from the body.
  • Infertility Treatment: Women who are suffering from infertility as a result of endometriosis may choose fertility treatment.

Endometriosis Prognosis

Women who are effectively treated for endometriosis can live normal lives and conceive children. Endometriosis sufferers are more likely to suffer from immune system disorders and disease and are at a higher risk for cancer.

Additional Resources:

  •  ACOG: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists