Fight #Endometriosis Today: Cause, Symptoms and Treatment

Endometriosis is a chronic condition that affects a woman’s reproductive organs. It happens when the lining cells (called the endometrium) of the uterus grow outside of it. Often it is found on and around the pelvic and abdominal organs, including the ovaries.
Rarely, the endometrial tissue is found in other parts of the body.
Endometriosis Sites 

NOTE: Endometriosis is not the same as menstrual cramps.
Menstrual cramps, also known as dysmenorrhea or period pains, are painful sensations felt in the lower abdomen that can occur both before and during a woman's menstrual period. The pain ranges from dull and annoying to severe and extreme. Source: medicalnewstoday

The primary symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain, often associated with menstrual period. Although many women experience cramping during their menstrual period, women with endometriosis typically describe menstrual pain that's far worse than usual. They also tend to report that the pain has increased over time.  

What causes endometriosis?Causes of endometriosis are not really specific as possible causes or factors may be different from person to person. Majorly discussed causes include:

Family history:
Women who have a close relative with the condition are up to 7-10 times more likely to get endometriosis. Also, it is common with twins that both may get endometriosis, particularly if they are identical twins.

Retrograde (backwards) menstruation: 
When a woman has a period, the blood flows out of the vagina, but also backwards along the Fallopian tubes into the pelvis. In most women (90%) the blood, which will contain endometrial tissue, just gets absorbed or broken down and causes no symptoms; however, in women with endometriosis this endometrial tissue starts to grow.

Other possible factors that may have a role in causing endometriosis are:
  •     Delay in childbirth
  •     Heavy bleeding during periods and periods lasting longer than five days
  •     First period before 11 years of age
  •     Regularly having less than 27 days between periods
  •     Changes in the immune cells (this possibly cause needs further research and understanding)
  •     Early pregnancy
  •     Low body weight
  •     Alcohol use
The risk of having children with endometriosis can be reduced by :
  • Breast feeding children for a longer time
  • Regular exercise of more than 4 hours per week
How do you know if you have endometriosis?
The symptoms are different in individuals. Some women have many symptoms where severe pain/s occur, whereas others have no symptoms. About one third of women with endometriosis discover they have it because they have not been able to become pregnant, or because endometriosis was caused during an operation for another reason.
The type of symptoms you have and their severity are likely to be related to the location of the misplaced tissue rather than how much misplaced tissue there is.

Approximately 3/4 of women with endometriosis have pelvic pain and/or painful periods.

In the early stages of the disease one or two mild symptoms may be felt for the first day or two of a period. Later, as the condition continues, symptoms may get worse for more days of the month.

In women over the age of 25, endometriosis can make it difficult to get pregnant. This may be because the endometrial cells release chemicals that:
  • Interfere with the ability to get pregnant 
  • Affect the development of the embryo in its early stages
In moderate to severe cases, the scarring caused by the endometrial cells may interfere with the release of an egg (ovulation) or because of damage or blockage. The damage can also prevent the journey of an egg along the fallopian tube and/or the sperm from reaching the egg causing problems with fertility.

Symptoms you may experience
 
Pain
Pain is a key symptom of this condition and is not related to how severe the disease is, but to the location of endometrial tissue.
  •     Pain immediately before and during your period
  •     Pain during or after sex
  •     Abdominal, back and/or pelvic pain
  •     Pain while urinating
  •     *Ovulation pain, including pain in your thigh or leg (this can also happen normally in some women)
Bleeding
  •     Heavy bleeding, with or without clots
  •     Irregular bleeding, with or without a regular cycle
  •     Bleeding longer than normal
  •     Bleeding before your period is due
  •    Bladder and Bowel Problems
Bloating
  • Increase in abdominal area, with or without pain at the time of period.
  • Tiredness
  • Tiredness or lack of energy, especially around the time of period.
  • Mood Swing
  • Anxiety and depression due to ongoing pain.
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Taking days off work, study or school because affected  person can’t function normally.
Symptoms during pregnancy
Symptoms of endometriosis appear to go away with pregnancy. This is thought to be because pregnancy hormones cause the endometriosis to reduce.

Symptoms during menopause:
Usually, endometriosis does go away after menopause. Rarely, it can return for no reason.

When to get help
Affected women should get help when period pain is affecting normal daily activities. For example:
  • missing work, school or other related activities
  • when medicines used for period pain don't help reduce the pain
  • when you need to stay in bed due to pain
  • when symptoms are getting worse
  • when you feel upset by your symptoms
  • when your ability to cope mentally decreases
  • Don't be silent about it. A problem shared is a half solved. Shyness won't solve a thing. Share with family and good friends. They'll be useful in covering up when normal day activities are affected.
  • See a doctor and take medications regularly.
 Endometriosis can be managed. Click Here to Read about Managing endometriosis

Credit: jeanhailes.org.au, endometriosis-uk.org, gazettereview.com/, www.medicalnewstoday.com

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