Endometriosis is the abnormal growth of cells in which tissue which normally lines the inside of your uterus, the endometrium, grows outside the uterus. Its exact cause has not been identified.
Most commonly, endometriosis involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the tissue lining pelvis. Seldom, endometrial tissue may spread beyond pelvic organs.
They are less commonly found to involve the cervix, vagina, and bladder. It has been reported in the brain, lung, liver, and old surgical scars. Endometrial implants, while they may become problematic, are generally benign.
With endometriosis, displaced endometrial tissue act as it generally would — it thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. This is because displaced tissue has no way to exit the body, therefore, it becomes trapped. If endometriosis involves the ovaries, cysts termed endometriomas may form. It causes the surrounding tissue to become irritated, eventually developing scar tissue and adhesions.
Symptoms of endometriosis
Its primary symptom is pelvic pain which is often associated with menstrual periods. Though many women also experience cramping during their menstrual periods, those with endometriosis usually describe menstrual pain which is far worse than normal. Pain may also increase over time. Common signs of endometriosis comprise;
- Painful periods (dysmenorrhea); cramping and pelvic pain may begin before and extend quite a few days into a menstrual period. Moreover, lower back and abdominal pain are common with endometriosis.
- Pain with intercourse; you may also have pain during or after sex.
- Pain with bowel movements or urination; you are most likely to experience these symptoms during a menstrual period.
- Excessive bleeding; you may also experience irregular heavy menstrual periods or bleeding between periods which is called as intermenstrual bleeding.
- Infertility; sometimes, endometriosis is first detected in those seeking treatment for infertility.
- Other signs and symptoms; you may also experience diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, bloating or nausea, mainly during menstrual periods.
The severity of pain is not certainly a reliable sign of the extent of the disorder. You could have mild endometriosis with severe pain, or you could have advanced endometriosis with very little or no pain.
Sometimes, endometriosis is mistaken for other illnesses which can cause pelvic pain, like ovarian cysts or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
It may also be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is a condition which causes constipation, bouts of diarrhea and abdominal cramping. However, IBS can go together with endometriosis that can complicate the diagnosis.
Causes of endometriosis
Although the exact cause of endometriosis is not currently fully understood, probable explanations comprise;
- Retrograde menstruation; a condition in which menstrual blood containing endometrial cells enters the fallopian tubes and the pelvis instead of leaving the body. These displaced endometrial cells then stick to the surfaces of pelvic organs and pelvic walls. Here, they grow and continue to thicken and bleed over the course of each menstrual cycle.
- Surgical scar implantation; after surgery, like a hysterectomy or C-section, endometrial cells may attach to a surgical incision.
- Endometrial cell transport; the blood vessels or tissue fluid (lymphatic) system may transport endometrial cells to various parts of the body.
- Immune system disorder; problems with the immune system may make the body unable to distinguish and destroy endometrial tissue which is growing outside the uterus.
- Genetics; an inherited component may also present. A woman with a close family member who has endometriosis is more expected to develop this condition herself.
- Fetal development; statistics show that endometriosis can be found in a developing fetus, but pubertal estrogen levels are believed to initiate the symptoms.
Endometriosis can cause pain which may be severe, especially during menstrual periods. Fertility problems may also develop due to endometriosis. Luckily, its effective treatments are available.