- Endometriosis is a painful, chronic disease that affects 5 1/2 million women and girls in the USA and Canada, and millions more worldwide.
- Endometriosis occurs when tissue like that which lines the uterus (tissue called the endometrium) is found outside the uterus - usually in the abdomen on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and ligaments that support the uterus; the area between the vagina and rectum; the outer surface of the uterus; and the lining of the pelvic cavity. Other sites for these endometrial growths may include the bladder, bowel, vagina, cervix, vulva, and in abdominal surgical scars. Less commonly they are found in the lung, arm, thigh, and other locations.
- This misplaced tissue develops into growths or lesions which respond to the menstrual cycle in the same way that the tissue of the uterine lining does: each month the tissue builds up, breaks down, and sheds. Menstrual blood flows from the uterus and out of the body through the vagina, but the blood and tissue shed from endometrial growths has no way of leaving the body.
- This results in internal bleeding, breakdown of the blood and tissue from the lesions, and inflammation - and can cause pain, infertility, scar tissue formation, adhesions, and bowel problems.
- Symptoms of endometriosis include pain before and during periods, pain during intercourse, infertility, fatigue, painful urination during periods, painful bowel movements during periods, and other gastrointestinal upsets.
- The only way to diagnose endometriosis is through laparoscopy, a surgical procedure done under anesthesia. A laparoscopy usually shows the location, size, and extent of the growths. This helps the doctor and patient make better treatment choices. Ultrasound CANNOT diagnose endometriosis.
- Laparoscopy is also used to treat endometriosis. With the use of scissors, cautery, lasers, hydrodissection, or a sonic scalpel, endometriotic tissue can be ablated or removed in an attempt to restore normal anatomy. Unfortunately, endometriosis lesions frequently regrow after surgery, resulting in the return of pain and other symptoms.
- The cause of endometriosis is unknown.
- There is no cure for endometriosis.
- Hysterectomy is not a cure. Many women experience a recurrence of endometriosis and/or its symptoms after hysterectomy.
- Pregnancy is not a cure. Some women find that their pain symptoms are reduced during pregnancy, but this is not the case for everyone. In most cases, endometriosis symptoms return after giving birth and stopping breast feeding.
- Women with endometriosis are at greater risk for several other diseases, including autoimmune diseases and hypothyroidism.
- Although there is no cure for endometriosis, a variety of treatment options exist. These include pain medication, hormonal therapy, surgery, and alternative treatments. These treatments seek to manage the pain and minimize the other symptoms associated with endometriosis.
I, personally, have had two laparoscopies for endometriosis. During my first surgery, the endometriosis lesions were cauterized, and I experienced pain relief for about a year, before the pain slowly starting back again, gradually increasing. For my second laparoscopy, my surgeon used laser excision. I have had a return of pain during periods after this surgery as well, but as I only have four periods a year, it is manageable. Ideally, I would take continuous birth control, and have no periods, but my body won't cooperate, and insists of having a period every 3 months or so, no matter what type of birth control I'm on (and I've tried just about every monophasic pill out there). I am, however, unable to function for two days every time I have a period, because I am in so much pain (even with prescription painkillers).
To learn more about endometriosis, visit The Endometriosis Association.