What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic disease that affects 1 in 10 women and girls of childbearing age. Endometriosis is often very painful. It occurs when tissue like that which lines the inside of the uterus (called the endometrium) is found outside the uterus (also known as the “womb”) – usually in the abdomen in sites like on the ovaries, the fallopian tubes and ligaments that support the uterus. It can also be found in the pelvic cavity where endometrial growths can grow on and around the bladder, bowel, vagina, cervix, vulva and in abdominal surgical scars. Less commonly endometriosis can be found on the arm, leg, lungs, brain and other sites.
This misplaced tissue develops into growths or lesions which respond to the menstrual cycle in the same way in the same way that the tissue of the uterine lining does: each month the tissue builds up, breaks down and sheds. While menstrual blood flows from the uterus and out of the body through the vagina (this is often referred to as a “period”), the blood and tissue shed from endometrial growth outside the uterus, have no way of leaving the body. This causes 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. Endometriosis growth are “sticky” and often cause organs to stick together (adhesions) and become distorted and / or blocked.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
- Pain, before and during periods
- Pelvic pain
- Pain with sex
- Painful urination
- Painful bowel movements
- Pain in the lower back and thighs
- Lethargy (a feeling of constant tiredness/lack of energy)
- Other gastro-intestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation and nausea
Not all women who have Endometriosis have symptoms. Frequently, Endometriosis is discovered co-incidentally – for example when women seek medical help when they struggle to fall pregnant.
How is Endometriosis diagnosed?
Diagnosis is considered uncertain until proven by a laparoscopy – a surgical procedure done under general anaesthesia by a specialist. However, sometimes doctors may make a diagnosis based on history and symptoms and treat conservatively (i.e. with medication and other means) before deciding to do a laparoscopy. A laparoscopy usually shows the size, location and extent of the growths. A laparoscopy is also one of the main treatments for endometriosis.
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