When good tissue goes bad: dealing with endometriosis
Many women experience discomfort around their period. Cramping, bloating, and fatigue are just par for the course, right?
Symptoms including heavy, painful periods, pain during or after sex, bloody or painful bowel movements and more can be signs of endometriosis, a condition affecting around 10 percent of women.
In women with endometriosis, the lining of the uterus – endometrial tissue – grows outside of the uterus. It can turn up just about anywhere in the pelvis, and when it does, it can wreak havoc. Just because the tissue is located outside the uterus doesn’t mean it stops acting like endometrial tissue. Once a month, it dutifully breaks down and begins to shed, just as the same type of tissue does inside the uterus. The problem is that outside the uterus, it really has no way for the tissue to leave the body. The wayward tissue ends up causing painful inflammation and scarring.
How do you know if your endometrial tissue has gone rogue and is now touring your body, and what can you do about it? Here’s a few fast facts:
Tracking it down
Just how do you know if you have endometriosis? Heavy, painful periods and other symptoms listed above can be signs. Those symptoms are common to many other conditions, though, so diagnosing on symptoms alone may be tricky. The only way to confirm a diagnosis of endometriosis is through laparoscopic surgery. During this type of procedure, a surgeon will make a small incision in the lower abdomen, insert a tiny camera, and have a look around for signs of endometriosis.
We’re not quite sure what exactly causes endometriosis, and there is currently no definitive cure. Symptoms are managed using various treatments, including:
Pain relieving anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen. NSAIDS reduce the inflammation caused by endometriosis and relieve the pain.
Hormonal treatments such as birth control pills. Such treatments suppress the hormones that regulate menstruation and inhibit the growth and spread of endometrial tissue.
Surgery. In severe cases, endometriosis implants and adhesions can be removed surgically.
Endometriosis and fertility
Endometriosis can impact fertility. The endometrial tissue can grow on or around the ovaries and other pelvic organs, interrupting the passage of eggs through the fallopian tubes. It may also cause inflammation and altered hormone activity that prevents fertilization or implantation from occurring.
Problems with fertility caused by endometriosis can be addressed in a variety of ways. Assistive techniques such as intrauterine insemination or in vitro fertilization can be used to help achieve pregnancy, and surgery may also have a benefit in some cases.
The good news is that pregnancy does seem to provide relief for endometriosis sufferers.
What should you do if you suspect you might have endometriosis?
Be sure to discuss the symptoms you are experiencing with your provider at KFI. Your doctor can then recommend additional steps for diagnosis or treatment that may be right for you. For more information or to set up a new appointment, call us at 502-996-4480.