Endometriosis is a disease that affects women globally and is characterized by a formation of tissue that lines the uterus (endometrium) outside of the uterus appearing in the wrong places such as the fallopian tube, pelvic cavity, or ovaries. This can cause extreme pain and affect fertility of women.
Endometriosis is classified from stage 1 to stage 4 according to the amount of endometrial tissue present and how widespread it is in the body. The severity of symptoms does not define the stage of the disease.
Endometrial-like tissue thickens, degrades and bleeds with each menstrual cycle just like the normal tissue but cannot flow out of the body. The pelvis and other body parts may develop scar tissue (adhesions, fibrosis) because of the persistent inflammatory reaction it generates.
If the endometrial-like tissue grows in the ovaries, cystic ovarian endometriosis or endometrioma occurs. If it grows in pelvic peritoneum, it is called superficial endometriosis. If found in the recto-vaginal septum, bladder, and bowel, it is called deep endometriosis. Endometriosis can also be found outside of the pelvis, but this is uncommon.
During the menstrual period, endometriosis can cause severe pain due to inflammation that is increased as well as adhesions and fibrosis. It can also cause fertility problems to arise. However, there are effective treatments to overcome all the problems.
All women of reproductive age are susceptible to endometriosis. Some symptoms may be noticeable, others may not be. Although symptoms are broad and can varies individually, it usually starts with increasing pelvic pain during menstrual period worse than the common menstrual cramps.
Symptoms of endometriosis include:
The level of pain and the duration to which the symptoms are experienced cannot accurately predict the severity of endometriosis. Experts cannot determine the exact cause why some cases are severe, and some are not. Or why it is more painful for one but not for the other.
Endometriosis has a broad range of symptoms, often similar to other diseases. In some cases, it can coexist with other conditions which makes the diagnosis more difficult such as with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Similarity in symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal cramping. With pelvic pain as a common symptom, endometriosis can disguise as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or ovarian cysts.
Women who experience symptoms of endometriosis should consult a healthcare provider for better diagnosis.
Endometriosis has no definite cause. Several hypothesis are:
Development of endometriosis may come from different risk factors, such as:
All menstruating women are susceptible to endometriosis. Typically, endometriosis appears few years after the start of menstruation. Signs and symptoms may vary for every individual. It can potentially become better during pregnancy and may resolve on its own during menopause.
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