Five Facts You Need to Know About Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a painful health problem for many women. It occurs when the tissue that usually lines the inside of your uterus grows outside of the uterus instead.

Endometriosis typically affects your fallopian tubes, ovaries and the tissue lining your pelvis.

On rare occasions, it can spread beyond the pelvic organs. It is thought to affect over 11 percent of women between 15 and 44 years of age in the United States and is particularly common in women who are in their 30s and 40s.

With endometriosis, the displaced endometrial tissue continues to thicken, break down and bleed with your menstrual cycle as it normally would. However, the displaced tissue cannot exit your body. This means it becomes trapped. Having the displaced tissue become trapped can cause a variety of health problems. Tissue can become irritable and eventually develop scar tissue and adhesions, which can lead to pelvic organs and tissues sticking together. Additionally, when your ovaries are affected by endometriosis, cysts can form. To find out more facts about endometriosis, read the following information.

Endometriosis Can Cause Infertility

Endometriosis can prevent you from getting pregnant. Researchers believe as many as one in two infertile women in the U.S. have endometriosis. Endometriosis does not mean women are completely incapable of getting pregnant. Many women with endometriosis use medical treatments to help improve their chances of pregnancy. Although it is not known for sure how endometriosis can prevent you getting pregnant, it is thought the fallopian tube may be obstructed, preventing the egg and sperm to join together. However, endometriosis can also affect fertility in other ways, such as damaging the egg or sperm. The condition of endometriosis may worsen over time, so doctors often recommend women with endometriosis do not delay having children.

Endometriosis Can Cause Painful Symptoms

The pain you experience with endometriosis can often be severe, especially during your period. Pelvic pain is the main symptom of the condition. Along with painful cramps, pelvic pain can start before your period begins and last for several days into your period. You may experience heavy periods and bleeding between periods as well. In addition, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal and lower back pain.
  • Pain during and after sexual intercourse.
  • Pain with urination and bowel movements, particularly during a period.
    • In rare cases, you may find blood in your urine or stool.
  • Constipation, diarrhea, bloating, fatigue and nausea.

Although pain is usually associated with the condition of endometriosis, many women who have the condition experience little or even no pain.

Certain Women Are at Greater Risk of Getting Endometriosis

There are several factors causing you to be at greater risk of developing endometriosis. These include the following:

  • Consuming alcohol regularly.
  • Beginning your period at an early age.
  • Going through menopause at a late age.
  • Having uterine abnormalities.
  • Never giving birth.
  • Having high levels of estrogen in your body.
  • Having one or more relatives who suffer from endometriosis.
  • Having short menstrual cycles.
  • Having a low body-mass index.

Endometriosis Is Diagnosable

If you think you might have symptoms of endometriosis, the first step is to see your doctor. She or he can talk to you about the symptoms you have and then perform one or more physical exam to discover whether you have endometriosis or not. Some of the tests your doctor may run include the following:

  • Pelvic Exam. Your doctor checks scars or large cysts behind your uterus. Smaller areas are harder to feel, so this test alone may not be conclusive in its findings.
  • Imaging Test. An ultrasound test may be used to check for ovarian cysts. This involves either scanning your abdomen or inserting a wand-shaped scanner into your vagina. Both of these methods use soundwaves to create pictures of your organs. Magnetic resonance imaging also creates pictures of your internal organs, so this test could be used in place of the ultrasound method.
  • If no signs of endometriosis are found during the above test, your doctor may prescribe you medicine. This is usually either a hormonal birth control medicine to help prevent pelvic pain during periods or a gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist to block your menstrual cycle in order to lower your body’s estrogen level. If your pain gets better with either of these medicines, you may not have endometriosis.
  • The only way to be absolutely certain as to whether you have endometriosis or not is to use laparoscopy. This is a type of surgery. Doctors look inside your pelvic area to examine endometriosis tissue.

Endometriosis Is Treatable

Although there is no cure for endometriosis, there are treatments available to ease the symptoms and help fertility. Treatments fall into two categories: medicine or surgery. If you are trying to get pregnant, you may be prescribed a gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist. This prevents your body from making the hormones needed for ovulation and your menstrual cycle. It can help to stop the growth of endometriosis. After you stop taking the medicine and your menstrual cycle returns, you have a better chance of becoming pregnant.

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If you are not trying to get pregnant, the first medicine doctors typically prescribe is hormonal birth control. This kind of medicine can be administered by a shot or taken as a pill. It reduces pain and helps to stop bleeding. An intrauterine device can also help to reduce pain and bleeding. It also protects you against pregnancy for up to seven years. Hormonal treatments are best for women who do not have severe endometriosis pains and symptoms.

If you have severe symptoms and hormones are not providing enough relief, surgery may be the best option. If you are continuing to have fertility problems, surgery can also help. The operation consists of the surgeon locating and removing areas of endometriosis. Unless you are attempting to get pregnant, hormone treatment is usually restarted after the operation.

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