What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a reproductive health disorder that affects women of reproductive-age. During endometriosis, endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterine cavity / uterus, also known as the Endometrium. It occurs on the ovaries, ligaments supporting the womb, bowel, bladder and other areas within the pelvis. Although it is very uncommon, tissue can also develop elsewhere such as abdominal wall, liver, belly button and lungs.
The hormonal changes of your menstrual cycle affect the misplaced endometrial tissue, causing the area to become inflamed and painful, which leads to growth of the tissue even beyond your uterus. Over time, this trapped tissue creates pressure within your lower pelvic region. Because it has nowhere to go–and remains trapped over time–it breaks down further still, hence why you might experience heightened pain during your period.
The cause of endometriosis is unknown, but there are some theories about what could cause this disorder. In most cases it’s due to a combination of factors that may range from an environmental or immunological contribution or something that was inherited from a family member or passed down over the generations. It can be useful to think of the implants as being like blisters containing endometrium lining expelled during menstruation and trapped in places it wasn’t supposed to go. The body forms scar tissue (adhesions) internally around the affected areas. The adhesions can cause damage to the pelvic organs causing them to stick together or even stick to other organs. Over time the endometrial tissue may become damaged and enlarge forming cysts, especially in the ovaries.
Endometriosis is quite a common disease and affects around 10 percent of women (190 million) globally. Many women manage to live happy and fulfilling lives alongside the condition.
Symptoms and Indications of Endometriosis
Symptoms of endometriosis do vary from person to person. Some women experience mild symptoms, while others can have moderate to severe symptoms ranging from mild to debilitating. The severity of your pain doesn’t indicate the stage or degree of the condition. It’s also possible to have a severe form and have very little discomfort, or a diagnosis that doesn’t manifest in terribly painful symptoms even if the disease is advanced.
Indications of endometriosis range from vaginal bleeding between periods, particularly after intercourse, pain in your lower abdomen during menstruation and/or the pelvic area. In some cases, women may not experience physical symptoms but will be diagnosed with endometriosis due to irregularities in their reproductive organs.
Symptoms of Endometriosis include:
- Painful periods
- Pain in the lower abdomen before and/or during menstruation
- Cramps one or two weeks around menstruation
- Heavy menstrual bleeding or bleeding between periods
- Pain followin seudal intercourse
- Discomfort with bowel movements
- Lower back pain that can occur during any time during of your menstrual cycle
You may not notice any symptoms at all. It is important that you make sure you get your annual physicals to be certain of the changes in your body. This is especially if you are experiencing two or more common symptoms.
Causes of Endometriosis
There is no clear answer as to the real cause of endometriosis. There are multiple theories but none have been scientifically proven.
One of the oldest theories is that endometriosis occurs as a result of a process called retrograde menstruation. In this case, menstrual blood flows back through your fallopian tubes and into your pelvic cavity instead of leaving your body through the vagina.
Another theory is that hormones act like menstruation by creating their transformation of cells outside the uterus into cells similar to those lining the inside of the uterus, known as endometrial cells.
Others believe that endometriosis may be caused by small pockets of tissue in your abdomen that become filled with uterine cells. They become that way because these cells start out as embryonic stem cells, which can grow into organs or more specific organs like the uterus. It’s not entirely understood why this happens.
Displaced endometrial cells continue to grow, thicken, and bleed over the course of your menstrual cycle in response to your hormones.
If you’re wanting to know more about endometriosis, how it might be affecting you and how it can be managed, contact us at Centre of Balance to book an initial exam with a professional.
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