Endometriosis - Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

By: peterhutch
Endometriosis (pronounced "en-doh-mee-tree-oh-sis") is where cells like the ones found in the womb lining (endometrium) grow on organs outside the womb. These go through the same monthly changes as the womb lining itself, sometimes swelling and bleeding into the body cavity. This bleeding can cause pain and swelling because, unlike a normal monthly period, the blood from endometriosis can't escape from the body through the vagina. Instead, the blood stays inside the body and may form rubbery bands of scar tissue, called adhesions. These can attach organs and tissues together and affect organs surrounding the womb.

Causes of Endometriosis

No one knows for sure what causes this disease. One theory is that during menstruation some of the menstrual tissue backs up through the fallopian tubes into the abdomen, where it implants and grows. Another theory suggests that endometriosis may be genetic, or runs in families.

Researchers also are looking at the role of the immune system and how it either stimulates or reacts to endometriosis. It may be that a woman's immune system does not remove the menstrual fluid in the pelvic cavity properly, or the chemicals made by areas of endometriosis may irritate or promote growth of more areas. Results from a recent study showed that women who have the disease are more likely than other women to have immune system disorders in which the body attacks its own tissues. This study also found that women with endometriosis are more likely to have chronic fatigue syndrome and to suffer from fibromyalgia syndrome-a disease involving pain in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Symptoms of endometriosis

Endometriosis is not an easy diagnosis to make. Symptoms such as chronic pelvic pain, menstrual pain, bloating, painful sex, or pelvic discomfort between ovulation and your period do heighten the index of suspicion, but aren't conclusive. Notably, some women have the condition without symptoms, while others have these symptoms but no endometriosis. An experienced practitioner can tell much from a pelvic exam, but the only definitive diagnosis is surgical. This is another reason we recommend a natural approach as a first step to see if it provides symptom relief.

The cause of endometriosis is not known, although there are several theories. It's possible that more than one theory is correct, and there are probably multiple pathways to developing the condition. One very likely contributing factor that can be reduced with natural methods is the estrogen-like chemicals that surround us, known as xenoestrogens.

The signs and symptoms of endometriosis include painful menses, pain with sexual intercourse, lower back or abdominal pain, sterility and constipation. In advanced cases of endometriosis, pain of the bladder, kidneys and bowel may become evident as well.

Treatment of Endometriosis

Treatment depends on the how bad the symptoms are, the severity of the disease, the woman's desire to have children in the future, and her age.

Some women with mild disease and symptoms may just be monitored. It is important to maintain a regular schedule of examinations (every 6 to 12 months) to note any changes or to see if the disease has gotten worse.

Stopping the menstrual cycle creates a state resembling pregnancy (pseudopregnancy) and can help prevent the disease from getting worse. Pseudopregnancy can be created using oral contraceptives containing estrogen and progesterone. Women take the medicine consistently for 6 to 9 months. This type of therapy relieves most of the symptoms, but does not prevent scarring from the disease. Side effects include spotting of blood.

Medical Conditions
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Medical Conditions