Endometriosis affects approximately 1 in 10 people with a uterus between the ages of 15 to 49-years-old. It’s an incurable chronic condition that’s known for being severely painful. Although the conversation around endometriosis has increased in recent years specifically on social media, there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding the disorder in terms of what it is, the risk factors and potential symptoms. So, in this blog post we’re giving you the run-down on everything you need to know about endometriosis.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a disorder that affects the organs in the pelvic area. The endometrium which lines the uterus builds up and breaks down each month due to hormonal fluctuations and exits the body during menstruation. However, with endometriosis tissue that looks and acts like the endometrium grows outside of the uterus on other organs such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes and tissue lining the pelvis.
This endometrial-like tissue builds up and breaks down as a reaction to the hormonal fluctuations each month just like the endometrium would. However, because this tissue exists outside of the uterus it has nowhere to exit the body and can become trapped. If endometriosis involves the ovaries, cysts called endometriomas can form and the surrounding tissue can be irritated and potentially develop adhesions and scar tissue.
What are the symptoms?
Common symptoms of endometriosis include dysmenorrhea which is the term for extremely severe period pain. Other common symptoms include bleeding between periods, infertility, unusually heavy bleeding during menstruation and excessive pain with bowel movements and urination while menstruating.
What causes endometriosis?
The exact cause of endometriosis isn’t known but there are factors which could explain it such as:
Retrograde menstruation – When menstrual blood that contains endometrial cells flows backward into the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity instead of leaving the body. The endometrial cells then stick to the pelvic walls and the organs which causes endometriosis.
Immune system disorder – If there’s an issue with the immune system the body might not be able to recognise and destroy any endometrial-like cells growing outside of the uterus.
Surgical scar implantation – Surgeries like a C-section or hysterectomy can sometimes result in endometrial-like cells attaching to the incision after surgery.
It’s hereditary – If you have one or more relatives with endometriosis it could increase your risk of developing it too.
The different types of endometriosis:
Superficial peritoneal lesion – This is the most common kind of endometriosis. There are lesions on the peritoneum, a thin film which lines the pelvic cavity.
Endometrioma – This is when lesions occur on the ovaries and cysts filled with fluid are located in the ovaries.
Deeply infiltrating endometriosis – This type of endometriosis grows under the peritoneum and can involve the bowels and bladder too.
What treatment options are available?
Hormonal treatment – This is to lower the amount of estrogen in your body which stops menstruation from taking place. This means less inflammation, scarring and cyst formation because the lesions bleed less.
Surgery – This is to remove as much of the affected tissue as possible and could make the symptoms less severe.
Pain medication – This is used to alleviate the severe pain that can sometimes come with endometriosis. If the pain medication doesn’t work then other treatments are an option.