Endometriosis: A painful yet treatable condition for women
Dr. Crutchfield, my cousin was recently diagnosed with endometriosis. What is endometriosis? Endometriosis (en-doe-me-tree-OH-sis) is a painful condition that occurs in women when cells that normally reside inside the uterus grow outside the uterus in the pelvis. Normally, these cells reside in the inner lining of the uterus called the endometrium. During a regular menstrual cycle, under the influence of hormones, especially estrogen, the endometrial tissue swells and prepares to accept a fertilized egg. If a fertilized egg does not arrive, the endometrial tissue is shed (the bleeding associated with a woman’s period) and the monthly cycle begins over with new endometrial tissue in the uterus developing for a possible pregnancy in the future. With endometriosis, endometrial cells can become attached to ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the lining of the pelvis (see picture above). During the regular menstrual cycle, the tissue thickens, swells, and sheds, but the ectopic (normal cells in an abnormal location) endometrial tissue does not get shed during menstruation as it normally would as a part of the inner lining of the uterus. As a result, the tissue is trapped in place and can cause pain, scarring, and even adhesions in the pelvis. Endometriosis is a common cause of pelvic pain and infertility. Rarely, endometriosis can be the cause of a rare form of pelvic cancer. It affects an estimated 12 percent of women (almost six million) in the U.S. and is most common in women in their 30’s and 40’s, but can occur any time after menstruation begins. Symptoms The primary symptom of endometriosis is significant discomfort and pain. Frequently, women can experience discomfort and cramping during menses. In endometriosis, patients report a much more intense pain and discomfort than usual. The pain of endometriosis tends to worsen over time and can be quite severe.
- Painful periods (dysmenorrhea). The pain can also seem like it is coming from your lower back and abdomen.
- Infertility. Endometriosis is a common cause of infertility.
- Heavy menstrual bleeding.
- Pain with urination and/or bowel movements. This presents most commonly during menses.
- Pain with intercourse. This is common with endometriosis.
- Not ever giving birth
- A family history of endometriosis
- Starting menses at an early age
- Short menstrual cycles
- Having high levels of estrogen
- Having an abnormally shaped uterus
- Experiencing menopause at an older age
Dr. Crutchfield, my cousin was recently diagnosed with endometriosis. What is…