Pain Patients: Understand Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a common disorder that occurs in women. This is when the tissue that would line the inside of the uterus (the endometrium) grows outside of the uterus. Endometriosis would commonly affect the ovaries, bowel or the tissue lining the pelvis. However, it may spread beyond the pelvic region. When endometriosis occurs, the growing tissue continues to act as it normally would if it was in the uterus- it would thicken, break down, and bleed every month.

However since the tissue is outside of the uterus, it has not way to exit the body and becomes trapped. The tissue around the displaced tissue can become irritated and may turn into scar tissues and adhesions. An instance of endometriosis can cause severe pain and possible infertility.

The most common symptom of endometriosis that one should recognize is pelvic pain that increases over time. The pain that is involved with endometriosis is greater than a typical menstrual cramp. Other symptoms of endometriosis would include painful periods (dysmenorrhea) that may extend before and after one’s menstruation period, pain during intercourse, pain during bowel movement and/or urination, excessive bleeding, infertility, and a variety of other symptoms. The severity of the pain does not correlate to the severity of the endometriosis. Some women experience a large amount of pain but have a mild case of endometriosis.

In other cases, other women would experience a minimal amount of pain, but have a severe case of endometriosis.

Two possible major complications of having endometriosis would include infertility and ovarian cancer.  A third of the women with endometriosis have difficulty getting pregnant. When endometriosis occurs, the fallopian tube becomes obstructed and prevents the sperm from fertilizing the egg.

Because of this, many physicians recommend women with endometriosis not to delay getting pregnant because their condition may worsen over time. When the disease is mild, it is easier for a woman to get pregnant and safely conceive a child. There is a higher risk of ovarian cancer in women with endometriosis. Although the risk is fairly low overall, the risk is still higher compared to a woman without endometriosis.

There are a variety of possible causes for endometriosis. Retrograde menstruation is one of the common possible causes of endometriosis. In retrograde menstruation, menstrual blood flows back into the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity instead of out of the body. The displaced endometrial cells of the menstrual blood will stick to the pelvic walls and organs, and will continue to bleed and thicken every menstrual cycle. Another reason of endometriosis is embryonic cell growth. This is when the cells lining the abdominal pelvic cavities come from the embryonic cells. As the abdominal lining turn into endometrial tissue, endometriosis can occur.

When a person has a surgery such as a hysterectomy or C-section, endometriosis can occur because of surgical scar implantation. After the surgery, the endometrial cells may attach to the surgical incision. Endometrial cell support may cause endometriosis when the blood vessels and tissue fluid system transport the endometrial cells to another part of one’s body. An immune system disorder may also cause an endometriosis. When one has an immune system disorder, the body may not be able to recognize and destroy endometrial tissue that is growing outside the uterus.

Some risk factors that increase the chances of endometriosis include never giving birth, uterine abnormalities, a history of pelvic infection, a relative with endometriosis, and a medical condition in which there is a prevention of normal passage of menstrual blood outside of the body. Endometriosis also tends to develop more commonly several years after a woman’s menarche (the first menstruation period).

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