What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a gynecologic condition that occurs when endometrial-like tissue grows outside of the uterus, affecting the surrounding pelvic structures, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the pelvis. As displaced tissue continues to act as it normally would (thickening, breaking down, and bleeding), it becomes trapped.
Without an exit point from the body, surrounding areas become inflamed or swollen over time, and scar tissues and cysts can form. It’s estimated that endometriosis affects more than 11% of menstruating women in the United States between the ages of 15 to 44.
Much like fibroids and adenomyosis, endometriosis can cause pelvic pain, severe menstrual cramps, and abnormal or heavy bleeding during periods. Many women with endometriosis report experiencing the following symptoms:
- Pelvic pain that worsens during menstruation
- Bloody urine
- Pain in the low abdomen
- Pain or cramping during intercourse
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Lower back pain
- Excessive bleeding
- Chronic fatigue
Left untreated, this chronic condition worsens, compromising the reproductive organs and pelvic structure. Fertility issues, pain, and other complications escalate over time. Luckily, medical and surgical treatment options are available once a diagnosis is made. The doctors at Viva Eve are also considered endometriosis specialists.
Causes & Risks
The exact cause of endometriosis is not known. However, it’s believed to be caused by retrograde menstruation, a condition in which a woman’s menstrual flow (which contains endometrial cells) moves backwards into the pelvic cavity instead of out of the body. The displaced endometrial cells then stick to the pelvic walls and surfaces of pelvic organs.
Any woman can develop endometriosis. However, biologically, there are several known risk factors that increase a woman’s odds of developing this condition. These risk factors include:
Diagnosis & Care
Because the physical clues for endometriosis look a lot like other gynecological conditions, such as uterine polyps, adenomyosis, and fibroids, a clinical diagnosis must be determined by a endometriosis specialist or Ob/Gyn.
To accurately diagnose endometriosis, a physician typically conducts a medical history, then orders a course of tests that may include a pelvic exam, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or laparoscopy. In some cases, women have both endometriosis and fibroids.
Viva Eve recommends that women who have not already received a confirmed diagnosis explaining their symptoms discuss their condition with an expert who can diagnose one or both conditions as the cause.
Once endometriosis and any other co-occurring conditions are diagnosed, an endometriosis specialist can help you chart a course of treatment based on the progression of your condition and your own individual circumstances. These include:
Once endometriosis and any other co-occurring conditions are diagnosed, a specialist can help you chart a course of treatment based on the progression of your condition and your own individual circumstances.
Hormone therapy suppresses the hormones responsible for the buildup of endometrial tissue each month. This treatment will prevent your menstrual period, lower your estrogen levels, and cause endometrial tissue to shrink. However, as a by-product of the treatment, women experience artificial menopause.
Laparoscopic surgery is a procedure during which a surgeon creates small “keyhole” incisions in the abdomen (using a laparoscope) to remove endometrial tissue and scar tissue.
Other medical procedures that remove tissues include cauterization, ablation, electrocoagulation, and endometrial ablation.
Without medical intervention, endometriosis can progress into a severely debilitating disorder. If you’re experiencing menstrual irregularities and painful period symptoms, seek a clinical opinion at Viva Eve to get a diagnosis and find the best treatment options that fit your needs.