Endometriosis is a condition in which the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus and bears the same nature as the uterine lining during the menstrual cycle.
The lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, is usually within the uterine cavity. It is the tissue that accepts ovum from the Fallopian tube and allows it to be implanted. If the egg gets fertilized, it thickens and prepare for pregnancy. If not, it breaks down and sheds the tissue in the monthly flow during menstruation.
In this article, you will understand how endometriosis develops, its causes, and the complications that can arise from it. You will also know the signs and symptoms that are peculiar to endometriosis and the types that are known.
Endometriosis; What it is.
Endometriosis is a disorder that begins with the growth of the endometrium – the tissue lining the uterus – outside the uterine cavity, usually around the pelvic region, bowels, ovaries and other organ. It is a condition that might cause pain to anyone who has it as the abnormal growth also thickens and breaks down like the endometrium in the uterine cavity.
When the hormonal changes that come with menstruation begins, the endometrial tissue outside the uterus is also affected by it, making them break down but the tissue has no where to go. This can cause irritation, adhesion of pelvic organs, and even scar formation, among others.
What Causes Endometriosis?
When it’s that time of the month for you to have your menstrual flow, it starts with your endometrium breaking down and leaving the uterus through the cervix and then, the vagina.
Although there is no known cause for endometriosis, there are a number of postulations as to why endometriosis occurs.
One of them states that the action of hormones in the body during the menstrual cycle cause cells outside the uterus to become similar to the ones lining the uterus. You might argue that the endometrium is a tissue, but then, are tissues not built out of cells?
Another theory, an old one, is that endometriosis happens due to the back-flow of menstrual blood – retrograde menstruation - into the pelvic cavity, through the Fallopian tube. This theory says that instead of the menstrual blood exiting the body through the vagina, it gets into the pelvic region through retrograde menstruation.
There’s another belief that the part of the abdomen may transform into endometrial tissue since the former is made from embryonic cells.
Types of Endometriosis
The types of endometriosis that are known are of three types, and they are classified based on where they form.
Endometrioma, also called endometroid cyst, is a type of endometriosis that occurs when the lining tissue of the uterus is found in the ovaries. It is characterized by the formation of cysts that are filled with dark fluid in the ovaries.
Superficial Peritoneal Lesion
This is the most common type of endometriosis. It is characterized by the formation of lesion on a thin film that covers the inner pelvis – the peritoneum. The lesion is also thin and does not cross the peritoneum into the inner parts of the pelvis.
Deeply Infiltrating Endometriosis
In this type of endometriosis, the lesion has spread beyond the peritoneum. Before endometriosis can be classified as deeply infiltrating, it must have spread to at least 5mm beyond the peritoneum surface. This means it must be found in the retro-peritoneal space, beneath the peritoneum.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
It is possible that anyone with endometriosis might not experience any sign or symptom. However, in a case that you feel any of these signs, it could be as a result of endometriosis.
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Severe menstrual cramps
- Blood-stained urine or stool
- Pain while passing urine or stool during menstruation
- Painful sex
- Back pain during menstruation
- Unusually heavy bleeding during period
- Diarrhea or constipation
How to Diagnose Endometriosis
The symptoms presented by endometriosis are also applicable to a range of other medical conditions. However, the peculiarity of these symptoms is in the time they appear, that is, during your period. With this peculiarity, your doctor might have to probe a little more to before he or she makes a diagnosis. Some of the ways your doctor will employ include:
This is a way for your doctor to know if you have endometriosis. He or she might get to feel cysts or scars behind your uterus.
With the use of imaging tests like MRI, CT scan or ultrasound, your doctor will get pictures of your organ to examine what is wrong, provided he or she felt a cyst or scar during pelvic examination.
Laparoscopy is done using a Laparoscope. It involves making a cut in your abdomen and inserting a camera, attached to a thin tube, to see how big the lesions or cysts are. With this diagnostic method, the doctor can be totally sure if you have endometriosis.
Biopsy is the observation of a tissue, your doctor must have gotten during laparoscopy, under a microscope to confirm your diagnosis.
Treatment of Endometriosis
To cure a condition, its cause must be known. Since there is no known cause for endometriosis, there is no cure for it. However, there are treatments – medications and surgery – that helps to reduce the pain that comes with it or remove cysts.
For the pain, doctors recommend Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen, or naproxen. If these do not work, there are stronger options that cannot be bought without prescriptions.
Some medications also help to deal with the hormones by lowering the level of estrogen in the body and consequently make menstruation cease. Some of these medications include birth control pills, Gonadotropin-releasing hormone medications, Danazol, and many more.
With surgery, the affected tissues are removed to alleviate the symptoms, but they might return after some time. Surgery might help you get pregnant, at least, until the growth starts again. However, in some cases the doctor might completely remove your uterus, cervix, and ovaries through a hysterectomy. With this, you cannot get pregnant, ever again.
Endometriosis is a serious condition that affects some women in their active reproductive years. It involves the growth of the endometrium outside the uterus and causing lesions and cysts where they are found. It causes pain and sometimes, it is asymptomatic.
Medications such as over-the-counter pain relief helps with some of the symptoms. However, surgery is a more permanent treatment option, only that for complete treatment, every part of the woman’s body concerned with sustaining pregnancy will be removed.