Endometriosis: Causes and Symptoms

Endometriosis is a painful condition in which tissue that is similar to the innermost lining of the uterus (also called “the endometrium”) is found outside the uterus and this further ends up in a chronic inflammatory reaction resulting in scar tissue and lesions.  It mainly involves the ovaries, the fallopian tubes and the tissue lining the pelvis. 

Facts About Endometriosis

  • Endometriosis is a common condition, affecting 1 in 10 women globally.  

  • Endometriosis is commonly diagnosed in women between 25-35 years. However, the condition may also affect younger girls and postmenopausal women rarely. 

  • It is more common in taller thin females with a low body mass index. 

What are the long-term effects of Endometriosis?

The most common risk factors of endometriosis include:

  •  Low BMI

  • positive family history

  • Reproductive tract abnormalities

  • Never giving birth

  • Short menstrual cycles <27 days

  • Heavy menstrual periods lasting >7 days

Causes of Endometriosis

The exact cause remains unknown. Some scientists are of opinion that the tissue might have existed since fetal development and began to grow along with puberty hormones. Others believe that in some women, the endometrial tissue is carried backward out of uterus during the periods time. Such a tissue might deposit in the pelvic organs.

Symptoms of Endometriosis

The symptoms are quite similar to those of some other common conditions occurring in women, hence it takes longer time to diagnose correctly. Most symptoms include:

  • Pain during periods

  • Pain during ovulation

  • Pain during or after sexual intercourse

  • Pain during urination or bowel movement

  • Heavy bleeding 

  • Chronic pelvic pain

  • Fatigue

Complications of Endometriosis

  • Due to pain associated with the condition, women with endometriosis have a reduced quality of life and often suffer from depression or anxiety.

  • One of the major complications of endometriosis involves infertility. About 50% of women suffering from endometriosis may have difficulty getting pregnant.

  • Endometriosis may pose a risk of developing ovarian cancer

Do not skip on timely diagnosis

Diagnosis involves:

  • Examination of the pelvis - for cysts or scars

  • Imaging tests like ultrasound, CT or MRI for detailed images of organs 

  • Laparoscopy - A thin tube with a camera at the end is inserted in the belly through a small cut to see the lesions. This can be used to confirm endometriosis.

  • Biopsy - Tissue sample is taken and looked under a microscope by a specialist to confirm the diagnosis.

Getting aware of treatments has its perks:

There is no cure for this condition, but endometriosis can be managed effectively with drugs or surgery. The choice of treatment depends upon the severity of symptoms and also a patient’s family planning. 

  • Pain medications are prescribed to relieve painful menstrual cramps

  • Hormone therapies such as contraceptives are often prescribed to reduce painful symptoms.

  • Surgery is a good alternative as it is effective in removing endometriotic lesions and scar tissue.  The success rate of these surgeries depends on the extent of the disease and how skilled the surgeon is. In patients trying to become pregnant, it can be done through the laparoscopic procedure, while preserving the uterus and the ovaries.

  • The doctor may also recommend fertility treatment if you are planning to get pregnant.

Managing through diet and home remedies

Another complementary approach to manage their symptoms in some women is to make changes in their diet. 

  • An increase in intake of Omega-3 fats and the inclusion of plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains are found to be helpful. 

  • Cutting down on red meat and processed foods along with limiting caffeine and alcohol are some other dietary tips to manage endometriosis.

Evidence suggests warm baths and heating pads to be effective in relieving pain and cramping associated with endometriosis.

 

Dr. Leena N Sreedhar

HOD - Department Of Academics And Research

Consultant - Mother & Child Care, Obstetrics & Gynaecology

Manipal Hospitals, Dwarka, Delhi

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