Endometriosis is a condition in which the endometrium, the layer of tissue that normally covers the inside of the uterus, grows outside of it. Most often this is on the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, and tissue around the uterus and ovaries; however, in rare cases it may also occur in other parts of the body. Like the uterine lining, this tissue builds up and sheds in response to monthly hormonal cycles. However, there is no natural outlet for the blood discarded from these implants. Instead, it falls onto surrounding organs, causing swelling and inflammation. This repeated irritation leads to the development of scar tissue and adhesion’s in the area of the endometrial implants.
Endometriosis is estimated to affect 7% of women of childbearing age. It most commonly strikes between the ages of 25 and 40. Endometriosis can also appear in the teen years, but never before the start of menstruation. It is seldom seen in postmenopausal women. The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown but heredity and abnormal immunity have a strong correlation with the incidence of endometriosis in women.
Endometriosis varies in symptoms and severity depending on the woman and the timing of her menstrual cycle. Endometriosis may not produce any specific symptoms, and the women may not be aware of the condition. In fact, most women with endometriosis do not have any specific symptoms of the condition. However, the most common symptom of endometriosis is pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis, or the lower back, mainly during menstrual periods. The amount of pain a woman feels does not depend on how much endometriosis she has. Some women have no pain, even though their disease affects large areas. Other women with endometriosis have severe pain even though they have only a few small growths. Symptoms of endometriosis can include:
- Very painful menstrual cramps; pain may get worse over time
- Chronic pain in the lower back and pelvis
- Pain during or after sex
- Painful bowel movements or painful urination during menstrual periods
- Spotting or bleeding between menstrual periods
- Infertility or not being able to get pregnant
- Diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, or nausea, especially during menstrual periods
Treatment includes medication such as pain killers for the pain, hormonal therapy such as oral contraceptive pills, growth hormone replacement therapy etc. However, endometriosis is difficult to treat and surgery is the mainstay of treatment. Removal of endometriotic tissue, cysts and adhesion’s may help with the pain and increase the chances of conception.