Endometriosis awareness month: Know signs and symptoms
Endometriosis is a disease where a tissue resembling endometrium appears on the outside of the uterus
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a disease where a tissue resembling endometrium appears on the outside of the uterus. Its presence causes a chronic inflammatory reaction that can result in the formation of scar tissue (adhesions, fibrosis) within the pelvis and other parts of the body. There are several types of Endometriosis such as; superficial endometriosis found mainly in the pelvic peritoneum, cystic ovarian endometriosis (endometrioma) found in the ovaries, deep endometriosis found in the recto-vaginal septum, bladder, and bowel, and in rare cases, endometriosis has also been found outside the pelvis.
The symptoms of Endometriosis vary due to its type. However, there are certain things that one might very commonly experience. These are:
- painful periods
- chronic pelvic pain
- pain during and/or after sexual intercourse
- painful bowel movements
- painful urination
- depression or anxiety
- abdominal bloating and nausea
Apart from these, endometriosis can cause infertility. Notably, infertility occurs due to the probable effects of endometriosis on the pelvic cavity, ovaries, fallopian tubes, or uterus. Symptoms of these conditions often improve after menopause, but in some cases, painful symptoms can persist. When pain centers in the brain become hyper-responsive over time (central sensitization), it can cause chronic pain at any point throughout the life course of endometriosis, including treated, insufficiently treated, and untreated endometriosis. It may even persist when endometriosis lesions are no longer visible. In some cases, endometriosis can be asymptomatic.
Causes of endometriosis
It is a complex disease that affects women all around the world, regardless of ethnic origin or social status. Endometriosis is thought to be multifactorial- having different factors contributing to its development. After several hypotheses, at present endometriosis is thought to arise due to:
- Retrograde menstruation- This is when period blood containing endometrial cells flows back through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity during the time when blood is flowing out of the body through the cervix and vagina through menstruation. Retrograde menstruation can result in endometrial-like cells that can deposit outside the uterus and later grow serious.
- Cellular metaplasia- In this condition cells change from one form to another. Cells outside the uterus change into endometrial-like cells and start to grow.
- Stem cells can also give rise to the disease. Later, this can spread through the body via blood and lymphatic vessels.
Currently, there is no proper way discovered to prevent endometriosis. However, awareness, early diagnosis, and management may slow or halt the natural progression of the disease. You may be able to reduce its symptoms by staying alert and regular checkups, as well as decline the risk of central nervous system pain sensitization. Meanwhile, there is no cure.