Endometriosis is a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus — the endometrium — grows outside the uterus. It is often a painful disorder which most commonly involves the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining the pelvis. Rarely, endometrial tissue may spread beyond pelvic organs.
What happens in Endometriosis?
Endometrial tissue found within the uterus normally undergoes changes throughout the menstrual cycle, including thickening, breaking down and bleeding. This normally results in a menstrual period. The endometrial tissue that grows outside of the uterus behaves similarly, however this tissue has no way to exit the body and becomes trapped. This may lead to the formation of cysts (involving the ovaries) or scar tissue and adhesions (sticky bands that cause pelvic tissue and organs to stick together). Endometriosis may cause severe pain especially during periods and fertility problems.What are the symptoms of Endometriosis?
The most common symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain, often associated with the menstrual period. However, although most women experience cramping abdominal pain with periods, those affected by endometriosis report severe and worsening pain.
Common signs and symptoms of endometriosis:
· Painful periods (dysmenorrhea). Pelvic pain and cramping may begin before your period and extend several days into your period. You may also have lower back and abdominal pain.
· Pain with intercourse. Pain during or after sex is common with endometriosis.
· Pain with bowel movements or urination. You're most likely to experience these symptoms during your period.
· Excessive bleeding. You may experience occasional heavy periods (menorrhagia) or bleeding between periods (menometrorrhagia).
· Infertility. Endometriosis is first diagnosed in some women who are seeking treatment for infertility.
· Other symptoms. You may also experience fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating or nausea, especially during menstrual periods.
The severity of the pain is not a good indicator of the extent of the disease as some women with mild endometriosis may have severe pelvic pain while women with advanced disease may have mild symptoms.
Endometriosis is sometimes mistaken for other conditions that can cause pelvic pain, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or ovarian cysts. It may be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that causes bouts of diarrhea, constipation and abdominal cramping. IBS can accompany endometriosis, which can complicate the diagnosis.
When to see the doctor
See your doctor if you have signs and symptoms that may indicate endometriosis.
Endometriosis can be a challenging condition to manage. An early diagnosis, a multidisciplinary medical team and an understanding of your diagnosis may result in better management of your symptoms.
If you think you may be having symptoms of endometriosis, feel free to make an appointment at TOG Centre for assessment and management.
Credits: Mayo Foundation for Education and Research