Endometriosis affects about 5 million women in the United States. That fact makes it one of the common health problems affecting women. The name, Endometriosis comes from the word endometrium that indicates the tissue lining the uterus. Each month, this tissue grows and then when menstruation occurs, is sloughed off to be grown again the next month.
When endometriosis occurs, this tissue grows outside the womb. Small patches grow behind the uterus, on or under the ovaries, and on the bowels or bladder. It is rare, but not unheard of, for this tissue to grow in other places in the body. Each month, as the cycle progresses, the patch grows and bleeds, but because it is not in the uterus, it has no place to go. Inflammation then results. No one knows for sure what causes Endometriosis.
Among the theories are that it is genetic, or there is a faulty immune response when endometrial tissue begins to grow outside the uterus. Pain is the most common symptom of Endometriosis. Usually the pain is in the lower abdomen, lower back or in the pelvis.
Some women will have large areas of Endometriosis with little or no pain, others with small patches will be in major pain. No reason has been uncovered yet to determine why this may be. Women with Endometriosis may have very heavy periods, painful bowel movements, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, severe menstrual cramps that worsens over time, and spotting or bleeding between periods because the endometrium may migrate to the ovaries, being unable to get pregnant frequently occurs.
A woman has a greater chance of having Endometriosis, if she started her periods at an early age, has heavy and lengthy periods, and has a close relative, who also has Endometriosis. It is important to seek medical attention, if you suspect that you may be developing Endometriosis. Many times, a woman will have symptoms for 2 to 5 years before diagnosis, due to the fact that the Endometriosis worsens over time, eventually causing enough distress to warrant attention.
The doctor will conduct the examination by doing a pelvic exam, after taking the health history. If no obvious growths show this way, the next step would be to look for large growths using ultrasound. This is a painless exam using sound waves to see inside the body.
The next choice is the do a MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) exam. It is also painless. The MRI uses magnets and radio waves to make a ‘picture’ of the body. To be 100 percent sure that Endometriosis is the problem, the doctor may decide to perform a surgical procedure called a Laparoscopy.
In this procedure, a tiny incision is made in the abdomen and a small scope is inserted to look for patches of tissue. If any are found, it is often possible to remove the patches, or destroy them with intense heat without harming the tissues around them. Women recover from this surgery much faster than more invasive types.
In some cases, it is advised and necessary to perform a major abdominal surgery, but it is considered to be the last resort. Only when no other option is possible, will a hysterectomy be chosen and then for women, who no longer wish to bear a child. There are some medications available, which will reduce the pain and other symptoms, but as of now, there is no cure.