What is it?
- Endometriosis is a disorder of the female reproductive system. In endometriosis, the endometrium, which normally lines your uterus, grows in other places as well. Most often, this growth is on your fallopian tubes, ovaries or the tissue lining your pelvis.
- When endometrial tissue is located elsewhere in your body, it continues to act as it normally would during a menstrual cycle: It thickens, breaks down and bleeds each month. Because there's nowhere for the blood from this displaced tissue to exit your body, it becomes trapped, and surrounding tissue can become irritated.
- Trapped blood may lead to cysts, scar tissue and adhesions — abnormal tissue that binds organs together. This process can cause pelvic pain, especially during your period.
How do I recognise it?
Endometriosis can be mild, moderate or severe, and without treatment, it tends to get worse over time. Some women with endometriosis have no signs and symptoms at all, and the disease is discovered only when bits of endometrial tissue (implants) are found outside the uterus during an unrelated operation, such as a tubal ligation. Other women may experience one or more of the following signs and symptoms:
- Painful periods (dysmenorrhea). Pelvic pain and cramping may begin before and extend several days into your period and may include lower back and abdominal pain. Severity of pain isn't necessarily a reliable indicator of the extent of the condition. Some women with mild endometriosis have intense pain, while others with more severe scarring may have little pain or even no pain at all.
- Pelvic pain at other times. You may experience pelvic pain during ovulation, a sharp pain deep in the pelvis during intercourse, or pain during bowel movements or urination.
- Excessive bleeding. You may experience occasional heavy periods (menorrhagia) or bleeding between periods (menometrorrhagia).
- Infertility. Endometriosis is first diagnosed in some women who are seeking treatment for infertility.
Endometriosis is sometimes mistaken for other conditions that can cause pelvic pain, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or ovarian cysts. It may be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that causes bouts of diarrhea, constipation and abdominal cramping. IBS can accompany endometriosis, which can complicate the diagnosis.
The cause of endometriosis remains uncertain. Experts are studying the roles that hormones and the immune system play in this condition.
One theory holds that menstrual blood containing endometrial cells flows back through the fallopian tubes, takes root and grows. Another hypothesis proposes that the bloodstream carries endometrial cells to other sites in the body. Still another theory speculates that a predisposition toward endometriosis may be carried in the genes of certain families. A faulty immune response also may contribute to the development of endometriosis.
Other researchers believe that certain cells present within the abdomen in some women retain their ability to become endometrial cells. These same cells were responsible for the growth of the women's reproductive organs at the embryo stage. It's believed that genetic or environmental influences in later life allow these cells to give rise to endometrial tissue outside the uterus.
How do you treat it?
Like any disease, even if there is no cure, there is almost always something you can do to manage it and take control. There are three main areas involved in the treatment of any disease:
How do you live with it?
Certain adjustments may be needed to get on with your life, and often, some simple tips and advice can go a long way to making these changes.
When you come to a Lynch's Pharmacy Clinic, we give you all the necessary information available to make your life more manageable and allow you to better live with your condition.
Endometriosis, a comprehensive overview- http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/endometriosis/DS00021/DSECTION=symptoms
Endometriosis, information for patients http://www.cks.nhs.uk/patient_information_leaflet/endometriosis