Endometriosis is a disorder in which the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside of the uterus. Nobody is quite sure what causes it, though theories abound.
The Endometriosis Association estimates that the disease affects 5.5 million women in the USA and Canada, and many millions more throughout the entire world. In spite of this, it remains one of the very poorly understood conditions of our time.
Common Warning Signs of Endometriosis
Endometriosis can manifest itself in many different ways. Since the location of the lesions have a great deal to do with the outward symptoms, each woman’s symptoms will vary.
In general, however, a number of the hallmark symptoms of endometriosis include pelvic pain, distress before or after childbirth, severe menstrual cramps (the kind that require more than a couple aspirin), painful intercourse, painful climaxes, irregular or heavy menstrual bleeding, painful bowel movements (often involving cycles of nausea and constipation), infertility, intestinal distress (bloating, vomiting, nausea), lower back pain that may radiate down the legs, bladder pain or frequency, and tiredness.
However, some women with endometriosis do not have any symptoms and may not know that they have endometriosis until a issue, such as infertility, is detected.
Interestingly, the extent or severity of your endometriosis has little correlation to the amount of pain you might experience.
How Endometriosis Is Diagnosed
Currently, the only way to definitively diagnose endometriosis is through laparoscopy (surgery in which a lighted scope is inserted into small incisions in the stomach ). Because visual diagnosis can be hard, suspected miscarriage is often removed and sent to pathology for histological confirmation.
Physicians who deal with endometriosis often may have the ability to feel endometriosis nodules through a rectal examination and make a preliminary identification based on their findings along with a lady’s history of symptoms. However, laparoscopy plus biopsy will reveal conclusive evidence of the disease as well as its scope (and, frequently treatment can be achieved in the exact same time).
Though there have been attempts at revising the current staging of endometriosis, many doctors utilize The American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s Revised Classification of Endometriosis. The staging form assigns points based on the location and thickness of this endometriosis. There are four stages in all.
The Treatment Options for Endometriosis
Numerous treatment options exist but, with each option, you need to consider the risks versus the benefits.
Drugs used in the treatment of endometriosis include those who put a woman into chemical menopause and those that attempt to induce endometriosis lesions by stopping childbirth (birth control pills and progesterone- only pills or shots). Side effects may be important with many of these medications, and recurrence of symptoms after stopping treatment is an issue.
Other treatment options include only treating the pain .
Option pain management methods can also be utilized, such as nerve blocks and acupuncture. Since endometriosis symptoms often persist after therapy, many women have found non-traditional means of alleviating symptoms, such as herbal remedies, aromatherapy, dietary modifications, vitamin supplements, relaxation methods, allergy management, and immunotherapy.
Conservative surgery is another treatment option. The goal of surgery is to remove or destroy to restore distorted anatomy. After the endometriosis is eliminated, pain could be relieved. If endometriosis is interfering with fertility, surgery may be able to fix these problems.
Nowadays, endometriosis operation most often entails using the laparoscope.
Sometimes it becomes necessary for a woman to decide on radical surgery, including removal of their uterus and ovaries, as well as elimination of all endometriosis lesions. This is perhaps the toughest decision women with endometriosis confront.
Hysterectomy used to be a much more prevalent treatment for endometriosis than it is today. But, it may still be required if other avenues of treatment have failed. Many times, doctors will also advocate removal of both ovaries (bilateral oophorectomy) in the time of hysterectomy, as some studies suggest this results in higher long-term pain relief.
But there’s the question of if hysterectomy is the answer for everyone. Some continue to endure from continued symptoms and documented existence of this disease even after hysterectomy and bilateral oopherectomy.
Endometriosis and Infertility
When endometriosis affects reproductive organs, fertility can be compromised. Recent studies have provided more evidence that mild or minimal endometriosis can also affect fertility. Researchers have also found that women with endometriosis are at greater risk for elevated levels of APA (antiphospholipid antibodies), that has been associated with recurrent miscarriage, intrauterine growth retardation, and pre-eclampsia.
However, not all girls are affected in such ways. And even among those who are, many are still able to conceive. In fact, nearly all women with endometriosis can get pregnant if that is their desire.