Endometriosis is a medical condition characterized by an implantation and growth of the endometrial tissue outside of the uterus. It affects women of the reproductive age, usually between 25-years-old and 40-years-old. Endometriosis is never diagnosed in girls before puberty and it tends to resolve after menopause. This is all due to a lack of female hormones produced by the ovaries.
The endometrial tissue, which is normally found inside of the uterus, tends to grow outside of its normal place when a woman has endometriosis. It can grow outside of the uterus in the nearby tissue, which is then known as external endometriosis. The most affected surrounding organs where endometrial tissue tends to grow are in the ovaries, peritoneum, vagina, vulva, bladder, rectum, intestines, etc. It can also grow inside of the uterus, in the myometrium, which is known as internal endometriosis.
It has been estimated that some women have a higher risk of endometriosis than others.
Risk factors of endometriosis include:
- A family history of endometriosis – you are more likely to get diagnosed with endometriosis is your mother, grandmother, sister, or aunt has the same problem
- Uterine abnormalities
- Never giving birth
- Menstrual periods before 12-years-old
- Menstrual periods longer than seven days
- Pelvic infections in the past
Signs and symptoms of endometriosis
The severity of the signs and symptoms of endometriosis varies from one person to another. The localization of the endometrial tissue outside of the uterus is the one that corresponds to the signs and symptoms, rather than the size of the endometrial tissue.
The most common signs and symptoms of endometriosis are:
- Heavy menstrual periods
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Pelvic pain – especially just before and during the menstrual periods
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Bleeding between two menstrual periods
The signs and symptoms of endometriosis, in general, depend from the location of the endometrial tissue. If the bladder is affected regularly, problems with the urinary tract are common. Painful urination, pain when the bladder is full, an urge to urinate, supra, pubic pain, or even blood in the urine during the menstrual periods are common. If the bowel is affected by endometriosis, painful bowel movements, blood during menstrual periods coming out of the rectum, as well as alternations of diarrhea and constipation are common.
The development of endometriosis is divided into 4 stages:
- Stage I – minimal, superficial lesions
- Stage II – mild, deep lesions in the cavum Douglas,
- Stage III – moderate signs and symptoms with a presence of endometrioma’s in the ovaries. Possible adhesions
- Stage IV – severe, large endometrioma’s with extensive adhesions.
How is endometriosis diagnosed?
Diagnosing endometriosis is not always easy, especially in its early stages.
Necessary examinations when diagnosing endometriosis are:
There is no cure for endometriosis. However, its signs and symptoms can be well managed, as the disease is characterized by severe pain in some women. The most important thing when it comes to endometriosis is concerning infertility problems. Women diagnosed with endometriosis are at a greater risk suffering from infertility problems and they often need assistance when trying to conceive.