Signs of Endometriosis: Causes and Treatment
Most women can boast of being completely aware of their bodies and the ongoing changes. However, this isn't true for all, as several factors contribute to women's health as a whole. With its delicate nature, women's health is an entire specialty in the medical field. Although several kinds of research have been done on most conditions commonly found in women, some seem to be never-ending with information. This article will explore some vital information about the signs of endometriosis, its treatment, and prevention methods.
The body responds to hormones in a very diverse manner. However, medical science has a good grasp on correcting and managing any abnormality such as endometriosis. Are you up for it? Let's dive right in.
What is Endometriosis?
Although the name sounds like medical jargon, endometriosis is simply the growth of endometrial tissues outside the uterus. Endometrial tissue is the soft tissue lining of the uterus. Due to the specificity of the body organ involved, endometriosis can only be found in women. Sometimes, the abnormal tissue might not be whole endometrial tissue but might contain some endometrial cells. However, as long as the tissue responds to the body's hormones that control the menstrual cycle, it is regarded as endometriosis. Unfortunately, since the tissue isn't located in the right place, it swells and bleeds like endometrial tissues during menstruation. Still, the blood and dead waste tissue accumulate in the body since there is no route for them to be expelled.
Although this tissue is not cancerous, it might cause scarring and adhesion formation. According to experts' reports, an estimated 11% of American females have endometriosis, with the estimated age group being between 30 and 40. Endometriosis might cause a blockage of the fallopian tubes, and the trapped blood and waste tissues might form cysts. This causes changes in the reproductive organs, leading to heavy bleeding and possible impairment on the chances of conception.
Endometriosis commonly occurs in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, tissues that support and are around the uterus. Quite rarely, endometriosis can also develop around other organs in the body such as the lungs, heart, and digestive tract. Due to these organs' physiology, the patient must see a doctor immediately after observing certain symptoms.
This condition might significantly impair a woman's quality of life because it presents chronic pain and high medical care costs. Furthermore, the stress and concerns about not becoming pregnant may impair mental health leading to anxiety and depression.
What Causes Endometriosis?
At the moment, there is no known definite cause of endometriosis. Some experts believe it might result from retrograde menstruation, a condition in which menstrual blood containing endometrial cells may pass through the fallopian tubes into the pelvic cavity, where the blood supply can carry them to other parts of the body. The endometrial cells in the blood may stick to other organs, cluster, and form viable tissue.
Some other experts believe that endometriosis could also be linked to genes. Often, most women who have this condition also have close maternal relatives who suffer from the same. However, research has shown that the severity of endometriosis increases from generation to generation. This isn't terrible news because women who know they are prone to endometriosis due to genetics can take intentional efforts to prevent it before it shows up. However, this doesn't always work, but it's worth a try.
Furthermore, health practitioners have noticed that some women who have endometriosis also have autoimmune disorders; however, the link between the two isn't clear yet. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recently reported several research types being carried out to ascertain the connection between autoimmune conditions and endometriosis.
Regardless of these postulations, which everyone in the medical field does not entirely accept, it is generally known that endometriosis might occur idiopathically, that is, without any known cause.
What are the Signs of Endometriosis?
The signs and symptoms of endometriosis broadly vary. Although pain is often the common indication for endometriosis, its severity cannot be used to measure the extent of the condition. This is because some women present with severe pain in the early stages. In contrast, others might not experience chronic pain till the disease has become extensive with several scarring and adhesions.
Furthermore, pain from endometriosis disappears after menopause, although it may persist if the patient uses hormonal therapy to mitigate the effects of menopause on the body. Additionally, pregnancy sometimes provides temporary relief to pain caused by endometriosis.
Other symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Painful abdominal cramps
- Bowel and urinary conditions
- Bloating and constipation
- Diarrhea and blood in the stool
- Chronic long-term pelvic and back pain
- Pain during sex
- Spotting or bleeding
- Longer duration of periods; significantly longer than seven days
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Difficulty getting pregnant
It is essential to state that you might not get any symptoms of endometriosis. While this might shield you from the usual chronic pain, it does not prevent the condition's possible complications. Hence, you must take regular gynecological tests, especially if you are prone to the condition due to genetics or other underlying conditions.
How is Endometriosis Diagnosed?
Due to this condition's specificity, the treatment of endometriosis is commonly within the scope of work of obstetrician-gynecologists. The condition is often suspected based on the presentation of symptoms, especially pelvic pain.
Physical examination such as a rectovaginal exam may be done, through which the doctor feels around for nodules around the uterus and ligaments that attach to the pelvic wall. While this examination might cause some discomfort and pain, it is usually an easy method to ascertain endometrial implants' presence. In any case, physical examination and presenting symptoms are not enough to conclusively diagnose endometriosis.
Hence, there is a need to carry out imaging studies using ultrasound. While this may help rule out other pelvic diseases and conditions that might mimic endometriosis symptoms, there is a need to carry out tissue biopsy on the implants. In all, the definitive way to accurately diagnose endometriosis is surgical, using either laparoscopy or laparotomy. It is important to note that pelvic ultrasound and laparoscopy are essential to rule out possible malignancies such as ovarian cancer, which can imitate some of this condition's symptoms.
On average, it takes a few weeks, sometimes months, to reach a conclusive diagnosis for endometriosis. Women are therefore advised to see their Ob-gyn as regularly as they can.
Can Endometriosis be Cured?
Endometriosis does not currently have a cure. However, the symptoms can be effectively managed. According to reports by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, several ongoing research finds the best treatment for endometriosis, seeing as the prevalence and complications are ever-increasing.
Although there is currently no cure for the condition, there are several treatment procedures, most of which have recorded tremendous successes in women. Although there are surgical and medical options to manage this condition and prevent the risk of complications, your health care provider might wish to try some conservative approaches first. There are several home remedies programs for endometriosis, some of which provide relief to the condition's symptoms.
In all, while there is no available cure, for now, there is hope that conservative and less-invasive methods can be used in curing endometriosis.
Fertility is one of the significant risks of endometriosis. Although women who have the stage 1 form of endometriosis may get pregnant and carry the baby to full term, about 30 to 40% of women with endometriosis may not have children. Unfortunately, medications do not improve the chances of conceiving. However, some women may get pregnant after the endometrial tissues have been surgically removed.
Experts believe that factors such as age, pregnancy history, menstrual history, and family history may play a significant role in increasing the chances of developing endometriosis. Notwithstanding, these are just speculations as no one can categorically determine the cause of the condition.
Understandably, many women want quick relief from the symptoms, mainly because the pain impacts their quality of daily life. However, there is a need to be patient with the management procedures of this condition.
There are several treatment options to select from managing endometriosis, although people react differently to some of these available options. During consultations with your doctor, you will be able to formulate the best plan suited for you. Additionally, due to this condition's mental stress, patients are often advised to join a support group. Some of the commonly used treatment options include:
Some patients are advised to try over-the-counter pain relief medications like ibuprofen in managing the pain from endometriosis. However, these might not be effective on most occasions
Certain hormonal contraceptives inhibit endometrial tissue growth and eliminate the hormone trigger for endometrial implants. This approach might be eliminated in some less severe cases. Although this should not be the first option to consider due to the side effects of some of these contraceptives. Nonetheless, it is a suitable choice to relieve pain and some other symptoms of the condition.
This is usually an option explored by women who want to give birth and therefore want the reproductive organs preserved. The endometrial implants are often removed by laparoscopy. The implants are often burnt or vaporized using lasers.
This is the last resort option and is only presented when the condition has significantly worsened. A hysterectomy involves the total removal of the uterus and cervix. The ovaries may also be removed because it produces estrogen, which supports the growth of endometrial tissues. Due to the finality of this procedure, it is not generally recommended as a treatment of endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a common condition that affects many women and presents with a variety of symptoms. Seeing as there is no known cure for the disease, in addition to the numerous impacts it might have on a woman's quality of life, it is advised that women regularly go for screening. Although this doesn't prevent or reduce the chances of developing the condition, it increases the chances of a good prognosis and facilitates early treatment commencement.