Endometriosis — What is it? What do you do about it?
For many women, endometriosis is a term they’ve heard, but don’t really know what it means. While the condition isn’t usually dangerous, it can cause a good deal of pain. And since we’re all about keeping our patients in the know at the Women’s Health Group, let’s give you some background on the condition.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a problem many women have during their childbearing years. Simply put, endometriosis means that a type of tissue that lines the uterus is also found growing outside of your uterus. While not usually dangerous, this situation can cause pain and other problems.
The clumps of tissue that grow outside of the uterus are called implants. They usually limit themselves to growing on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the outer wall of the uterus, the intestines, and other organs in the belly area.
Why is there special tissue?
Endometrium, that’s the culprit here. Endometrium is the tissue that lines the uterus. Each month the female body releases hormones that tell the endometrium to thicken in expectation of the release of an egg. If a woman gets pregnant, the fertilized egg attaches to the endometrium and starts to grow. If you don’t get pregnant, the endometrium breaks down, and you body sheds it as blood. This is the fun you know to be your menstrual period.
So, what’s the big deal with endometriosis?
The problem with these tissues that grow outside the uterus, but act like they are in the uterus, is that during your menstrual cycle they get thicker, and then break down and bleed. But since they’re outside the uterus, there’s no place for the blood to flow out of. This irritates the implants and they get painful and scar tissue can form. That scar tissue can impact a woman’s ability to get pregnant.
No one knows what causes endometrial tissue to grow outside the uterus. They do know that estrogen makes it worse, and estrogen is flowing freely during the prime childbearing years.
Endometriosis symptoms vary from woman to woman but there are certain commonalties:
- Pain. The pain will be located where the implants are growing. The pain may be there only before and during your periods, or it could be there all the time.
- Abnormal bleeding. Some women have heavy periods, spotting or bleeding between periods, bleeding after sex, or blood in their urine or stool.
- Difficulty getting pregnant (infertility). This is the only symptom some women have.
Our experts at the Women’s Health Medical Group will diagnose your endometriosis and will likely recommend a treatment plan that includes some or all of the following.
- Anti-inflammatatory drugs. These can reduce bleeding and pain.
- Birth control pills. These are used often to treat endometriosis, but, obviously, can’t be used for women trying to become pregnant.
- Hormone therapy. This stops a woman’s periods and shrinks implants. But, like birth control pills, this doesn’t do for women trying to become pregnant.
- Laparoscopy. This surgery with an endoscope that is inserted through a tiny incision removes implants and scar tissue. Laparoscopy reduces the pain, and can help patients become pregnant.
Do you have symptoms of endometriosis? We need to hear from you. Call us at 817-346-5336 to schedule your appointment.
Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net