Endometriosis seems such a scary word for a condition that is common among women. The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that it affects “1 out of 10 women of childbearing age.” The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, an arm of the US National Institutes of Health states that “endometriosis is one of the most common gynecological diseases, affecting more than 5.5 million women in North America alone.” But what is endometriosis? Read on to learn about this condition and how it affects the women who have it.
1. WHAT IS ENDOMETRIOSIS?
According to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development, endometriosis is derived from the word endometrium, which is the tissue which lines a woman's uterus. Endometriosis occurs when the endometrium grows outside the uterus. According to Dr. Aimee Platon, a fellow at the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, common sites where this can happen include the ovaries, ligaments of the uterus, pelvic lymph nodes, cervix, vagina, colon, and appendix. While the extra endometrium growth is benign, it can be extremely painful and lead to various complications in its advanced stages.
2. WHAT CAUSES ENDOMETRIOSIS?
Up to now, doctors can’t seem to pinpoint a specific reason behind endometriosis. The NIH says that some doctors think that “retrograde menstrual flow--when menstruation flows backward into the pelvis”--can be a possible factor. However, retrograde menstrual flow happens to most women, and it is not a definitive cause of endometriosis. Genes may figure prominently as well, as the NIH reports that endometriosis also “tends to run in families.” WomensHealth.gov also cites a faulty immune system as a possible cause since “it will fail to find and destroy endometrial tissue growing outside the uterus.”
Dr. Platon recommends laparoscopy (a kind of surgery that involves inserting a thin tube into the belly to take a look at the internal organs) to check if a woman has endometriosis, as well as undergoing a physical exam a day or two before the onset of the menses, as there is maximum swelling and tenderness in the possible affected areas.
3. WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF ENDOMETRIOSIS?
Women with endometriosis experience a lot of pain, especially during their periods. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development states that this still baffling for most researchers who are trying to figure out just what causes this disease. WomensHealth.gov adds that endometriosis can cause problems in the intestines and bladder. Most importantly, endometriosis can cause infertility. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reports that “about 30 percent to 40 percent of women with endometriosis are infertile, making it one of the top three causes of female infertility.”
4. WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ENDOMETRIOSIS?
“Common symptoms are infertility, abnormal bleeding, and cyclic pelvic pain, which involves the immobility of the pelvic organs during sexual intercourse or dysmenorrhea that occurs at least 48 hours prior to the onset of menses. Less common symptoms include constipation, diarrhea, and urinary frequency,” Dr. Aimee Platon shares. She also reveals that signs of endometriosis include the enlargement or tenderness of the ovaries, restricted movements, and scarring of the pelvic organs.
5. HOW IS ENDOMETRIOSIS TREATED?
As of now, there is no specific cure for endometriosis, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be managed. First off, there is a way to work around the severe pain that comes with it. The NIH assures us that this can be done not only by taking pain relievers, but also through hormone therapy, in which patients are prescribed birth control pills. For severe cases, WomensHealth.gov recommends surgery. Laparoscopy, a procedure used to diagnose endometriosis, can also be used to treat it.
Dr. Platon also says that the progression or recurrence of endometriosis can also be controlled. Lastly, for endometriosis patients who are looking into having kids, take heart: Dr. Platon says that there are still ways to promote fertility. Maintain open communication lines with your doctor, so you will know what options are readily available for you.
Learn more about other conditions and diseases that affect women from these FN articles:
- What Every Woman Should Know about Ovarian Cancer
- What Every Woman Should Know about Breast Cancer
- Hot GirlTalk Topic: What Every Woman Should Know about Cervical Cancer
Special thanks to Dr. Aimee D. Platon, MD, FPOGS, FPSUOG. Dr. Platon has clinics at the following locations:
- Vernon & Torres Medical & Diagnostic Center: 2/F SMRC Building, 311 Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Quezon City (Tel. No. 02-435-0260)
- Neomedica Health Services Inc.: Lot 4 Block 71 Congressional Avenue, Brgy. Bahay Toro, Quezon City (Tel. Nos. 02-929-6055 / 02-382-6482)
- St. Thomas Security Clinic: 18 4th Avenue Crame, Cubao, Quezon City (Tel. Nos. 02-724-8118 / 02-724-8138)
- San Lorenzo Ruiz Women's Hospital: O. Reyes Street, Santulan, Malabon City (Tel. No. 02-294-4853)
(Photo by ame otoko via Flickr Creative Commons)