Endometriosis is a female reproductive condition in which the tissue that lines the uterus grows outside the uterus, leading to complications including heavy periods, pain and infertility. If you are a woman, it is a good idea to learn more about the common causes of endometriosis and how this condition is treated.
What are the Symptoms?
This condition is characterized by severe cramping during a woman’s monthly period, usually beginning just before menstruation and resolving after several days. If you have endometriosis, you might also experience pain during intercourse or when using the bathroom, as well as unusually heavy menstrual bleeding, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, nausea and difficulty conceiving.
Why Does Endometriosis Occur?
While doctors don’t know exactly why this condition develops, it’s thought to be caused by a combination of factors. These may include:
- Retrograde menstruation, in which menstrual blood flows back through the fallopian tubes and becomes trapped
- Transformation of cells into endometrial cells because of hormones or immune factors
- Embryonic cell transformation
- Implantation of endometrial cells onto a surgical incision
- Autoimmune disorder
Certain people are at higher risk for developing endometriosis. These include women who have never given birth, who started menstruation at a younger-than-average age, who went through menopause at an older-than-average age, who have a menstrual cycle that’s typically shorter than 27 days, who have higher estrogen levels, who have a lower-than-average body mass index, who drink alcohol, who have a family history of endometriosis and who have uterine abnormalities.
Treatment Options for Endometriosis
In addition to causing discomfort, endometriosis can often make it more difficult to get pregnant. Treating this condition can make it possible for you to have a healthy pregnancy and birth. Women who are trying to conceive may need to undergo a surgical procedure to remove as much of the endometrial tissue as possible while protecting the uterus and ovaries. This procedure can often be done laparoscopically. In other cases, women who have endometriosis may need to undergo in vitro fertilization.
For women who are not trying to get pregnant, the first line of defense is usually over-the-counter pain medication. If this does not effectively resolve symptoms, other treatments can often be beneficial. Women with severe endometriosis who are not planning to have more children may need to undergo a hysterectomy if more conservative treatments are not effective. It all depends on your unique situation.