Endometriosis affects one in ten women during their reproductive years.
March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, making it a good time to recognize what this common and difficult condition is, the warning signs and symptoms, and how to receive effective treatment.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a disorder in which tissue similar to that which forms the lining of the uterus continues to grow outside of the uterine cavity. This tissue is referred to as the endometrium and in the case of endometriosis, it continues to grow on the ovaries, the lining of the pelvis, and even the intestines. When endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus, it is referred to as an endometrial implant.
These endometrial implants are still affected by the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle, causing these areas to become inflamed and painful. Due to the inflammation, this tissue of the implants will thicken and break down. Once the tissue is broken down, it is trapped in the pelvis region which can cause a variety of problems including:
- Adhesions (that bind organs together)
- Severe internal scarring and irritation
- Fertility complications
- Severe period pain
Stages of Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a condition that develops over time and has been broken down into stages:
- Stage 1 (Minimal): In minimal endometriosis, there are small lesions and/or wounds present and minor endometrial implants on the ovaries. Inflammation in and around the pelvic area can also be present.
- Stage 2 (Mild): Mild endometriosis is similar to Stage 1 but more lesions and shallow implants are present. The endometrial implants can also occur on the pelvic lining in this stage.
- Stage 3 (Moderate): Moderate endometriosis is characterized by deep implants on the ovaries and pelvic lining. There is also an increased occurrence of lesions.
- Stage 4 (Severe): In the most severe stage of endometriosis, deep implants are present on both the ovaries and the pelvic lining while lesions develop on the fallopian tubes and intestines.
Symptoms and indicators of endometriosis include:
- Period pain
- Pain in the lower abdomen before and/or during menstruation
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Spotting between periods
- Pain following sexual intercourse
- Pain or discomfort with bowel movements
- Lower back pain
The root cause of endometriosis is unknown but there are several risk factors that have been linked to this condition:
- Age: Women between the ages of 25-40 are at higher risk for this condition but symptoms can begin at puberty.
- Genetics: Studies show that there may be a genetic component to this condition as women are at a higher risk if there is a family history of endometriosis.
- Pregnancy history: Women who have not had a child have a greater risk of developing endometriosis. However, women who have experienced pregnancy can also have endometriosis. In fact, there are some theories that a potential cause of endometriosis is a cesarean section as there is an increased likelihood that menstrual blood will leak into the pelvic cavity through a surgical scar, leaving potential for endometrial implants to develop.
- Menstrual history: Experiencing severe pain while menstruating should not be tolerated or ignored. Speak with your doctor if you have been experiencing painful periods, shorter cycles, heavier and longer periods, or any other irregularities.
Endometriosis is a chronic condition with no cure but effective treatment can drastically improve the quality of your daily life, help manage fertility issues, and minimize your symptoms.
At Holtorf Medical Group, our doctors are trained to provide you with cutting-edge testing and innovative treatments to properly diagnose and treat endometriosis, optimize your health, and improve your quality of life. If you think you are suffering from endometriosis but aren’t getting the help you need, contact us to see how we can help you!