Know the basics
1. What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a problem you can have when you are in your childbearing years. If you have this health condition, the tissue that usually lines in your uterus grows outside of your uterus into your fallopian tubes. The misplaced tissue still act like your normal uterus tissue, meaning they will break down and bleed during menstruation.
However, because they grow out of your uterus, the blood cannot flow out of your body and thus are trapped. This results in internal bleeding and inflammation, which will lead to many other symptoms.
Endometriosis commonly involves your fallopian tubes, ovaries, bowel or the tissue lining your pelvis. The surrounding tissue can get irritated and painful, forming scar tissue or fluid-filled sacs that can make it hard to get pregnant.
2. How common is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is especially common among women in their 30s and 40s but it can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
The common signs and symptoms of endometriosis are:
- Pelvic pain in your menstrual period, which is far worse than usual and can increase over time;
- Lower back and abdominal pain;
- Pain during or after sex;
- Painful bowel movements and urination during periods;
- Excessive bleeding: You can have heavy periods with excessive bleeding or it can happen between your periods;
- Blood in the urine or stool, vaginal bleeding after sex;
- Fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating or nausea, especially during menstrual periods;
- Severe menstrual cramps;
- Pain before and during periods;
- Pain with sex;
- Other Gastrointestinal upsets such as diarrhea, constipation, nausea.
There may be some signs or symptoms not present above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
3. When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Pain in your periods although it was not before;
- Daily activities affected by pains;
- Pain during sex;
- Experiencing painful urination, blood in your urine, or an inability to control the flow of urine;
- Not being able to become pregnant after trying for 12 months.
Diagnosis and treatment
1. How is endometriosis diagnosed?
You may need to describe your symptoms, including the location of your pain and when it occurs so that your doctor can diagnose your endometriosis. In some cases, you can have tests to check for physical clues of endometriosis. It can be pelvic exam, ultrasound, laparoscopy.
In a pelvic exam, your doctor uses hands or physical strength to check areas in your pelvis if there are any abnormalities, such as cysts on your reproductive organs or scars behind your uterus while ultrasound requires high-frequency sound waves to create images of the inside of your body.
Although it is possible that your doctor can’t know exactly your condition thanks to ultrasound imaging, but it can identify cysts associated with endometriosis.
When trying medical management can’t help your doctor to make sure if you have endometriosis, a surgeon to look inside your abdomen for signs of endometriosis can be recommended, which uses a surgical procedure called laparoscopy. With help of laparoscopy, your doctor can know the location, extent and size of the endometrial implants to help determine the best treatment options.
2. How is endometriosis treated?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for endometriosis. However, you can can manage your pain and infertility by treatment. Based on the severity of your symptoms and your wish to get pregnant, you can choose proper treatments.
Hormone therapy to lower your body’s estrogen levels for shrinking the implants and reducing pain is suitable pain is your only problem, whereas surgery, infertility treatment, or both is the best when you intend to become pregnant.
If you have mild pain, have no plans for a future pregnancy, or are near menopause, you can consider not having treatment.
Medicines are an appropriate treatment for you in case you have pain or bleeding but aren’t planning to get pregnant soon. They can be birth control hormones to prevent endometriosis from getting worse or anti-inflammatories to help you control pain. When you realize that your symptoms is severe or if birth control hormones and NSAIDs don’t work, you might try a stronger hormone therapy.
Even stronger hormone therapy can’t help or other organs are affected, surgery is the next step for you. Endometrial growths and scar tissue will be removed during the surgery. This can usually be done through one or more small incisions, using laparoscopy.
1. What causes endometriosis?
The cause of endometriosis is still unknown. However, scientists believe that there are certain triggers that can lead to this.
The first cause can be retrograde menstruation, which is the common explanation for endometriosis. Instead of moving out of your body, menstrual blood containing endometrial cells flows back through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity, causing endometrial cells stick to the pelvic walls and surfaces of pelvic organs.
The embryonic cell growth is the other reason. Embryonic cells create the cells lining the abdominal and pelvic cavities. When one or more small areas of the abdominal lining turn into endometrial tissue, you can have endometriosis. If you used to experience a surgery like a hysterectomy or C-section, the surgical scar implantation formed can make endometrial cells stick to it, which leads to endometriosis. In case endometrial cells is transported by the blood vessels or tissue fluid to other parts of the body, endometriosis can also develop.
Another cause is your immune system disorder. If you immune system has problems that make the body unable to recognize and destroy endometrial tissue growing outside the uterus, endometriosis can occur.
Moreover, you can have the disease because the cells in the belly and pelvis may change into endometrial cells, or endometrial cells already showed up outside the uterus when you were a fetus.
2. What increases my risk for endometriosis?
There are many risk factors for endometriosis, such as:
- Never giving birth;
- One or more relatives (mother, aunt or sister) with endometriosis;
- The normal passage of menstrual flow out of the body is prevented by any medical condition;
- History of pelvic infection;
- Uterine abnormalities;
- Having menstruation before age 12;
- An abnormal shape that blocks or slows menstrual flow is in your uterus, cervix, or vagina.
3. What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage endometriosis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with endometriosis:
- Warm baths and a heating pad is helpful for relaxing pelvic muscles and reducing cramping and pain;
- Getting regular exercise may help improve symptoms;
- Lying down and placing a pillow under your knees;
- You can use relaxation techniques and biofeedback.
Need further information? Contact GO.CARE manage team to get more details from expert doctors and medical specialists.
GO.CARE does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Endometriosis. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/basics/definition/con-20013968. Accessed June 14, 2016.
Endometriosis. http://www.webmd.com/women/endometriosis/endometriosis-topic-overview. Accessed June 14, 2016.