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Endometriosis is a term used to describe a type of disorder that happens when the inside of the uterus starts to grow outside of itself. This disorder has the ability to cause a great deal of pain and mostly takes place near the ovaries and fallopian tubes. With every menstrual cycle, the endometrium tissue becomes thicker and then breaks down so it can be released every month. This also happens to the endometrium tissue that is now growing outside the uterus. Because this outside tissue is not where it should be, there is nowhere for this released tissue to go, which means it remains in the body, eventually causing various problems.

The fact that a person will likely experience multiple health problems when they receive an endometriosis diagnosis makes it essential to be under the supervision of a gynecologist until the condition is properly addressed. Endometriosis is fairly common and usually affects people who are older, typically when they are in their forties or thirties.

How Endometriosis is Diagnosed

A gynecologist will first perform a pelvic exam to diagnose endometriosis, which allows them to physically check the pelvic area for any abnormalities. They will then decide whether they need to use an ultrasound or perform an MRI, as this allows them to see more detailed images inside the body. A laparoscopy may be necessary for some people, which does not happen too often.

Risk factors that increase the chances of being diagnosed with endometriosis:

  • Starting their period before the age of 12
  • Never giving birth
  • Having menstrual cycles that last fewer than 26 days
  • Starting menopause at a late age
  • Experiencing higher levels of estrogen than most
  • Consuming too much alcohol
  • Having a low BMI
  • Having relatives who have already been diagnosed with endometriosis
  • Being diagnosed with any health condition that interferes with normal menstruation

Common Endometriosis Symptoms

The most common symptom of endometriosis is discomfort and/or various levels of pain. While this pain is commonly experienced during monthly menstrual periods, it can occur during at any time. Endometriosis pain tends to worsen over time. Many women who have endometriosis will often mistake it for other health-related issues, like ovarian cysts and irritable bowel syndrome, as the symptoms are very similar.

Symptoms commonly with an endometriosis diagnosis:

  • Very painful cramping in the pelvic area that can extend to the lower abdominal area, as well as the lower back area
  • Experiencing pain when urinating or making a bowel movement
  • Experiencing pain during sexual intercourse
  • Experiencing a very heavy blood flow during menstruation
  • Experiencing any type of bleeding in between menstrual periods
  • Experiencing diarrhea, constipation and/or bloating often, which tends to occur more frequently during menstruation
  • Feeling fatigued often

Possible Causes of Endometriosis

The exact reason for endometriosis is still being investigated, as it is currently not known.

Some of the more common causes include:

  • Retrograde menstruation: This term is used to describe a situation in which the menstrual blood does not exit the body as it should and instead flows back up into the fallopian tubes; the endometrial cells contained in the blood will cling to the walls and organs located in the pelvic area, where they will continue to grow and cause various types of problems
  • Transformation of peritoneal cells: It is believed that hormones and immune systems can transform peritoneal cells into endometrial cells
  • Embryonic cell transformation: It is possible that estrogen may transform embryonic cells into endometrial cells
  • Surgical scar implantation: A possible cause includes endometrial cells attaching to a surgical incision
  • Endometrial cells transport: It is possible for blood vessels to transport endometrial cells from one part of the body to another
  • Immune system disorder: It is possible for immune system issues to destroy tissue

Treatment Options for Endometriosis

Unfortunately, there is no cure for endometriosis, though it can be treated, which is good because there are a number of risks associated with the condition. It is possible for endometriosis to cause infertility. Those who have been diagnosed are also at a higher risk of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. These facts make it necessary for those who have been diagnosed with endometriosis to find out what their treatment options are as soon as possible.

Common treatment options:

  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Taking oral contraceptives
  • Undergoing hormone therapy
  • Taking prescribed medication
  • Undergoing a surgical procedure

Most people who undergo these treatment options can live a fairly normal life.