Have you noticed your periods have gotten heavier? Maybe you’re experiencing more painful cramping? Has sex become uncomfortable or even painful? If any of that sounds familiar, you might have endometriosis.
What is the main cause of endometriosis? What are the symptoms? How is it diagnosed and treated?
This guide to endometriosis will answer those questions and more.
What Exactly Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis occurs when the endometrium (tissue that lines the uterus) grows outside your uterus. Most commonly, it can affect your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvic lining. Although rare, it can also affect organs outside of your pelvic region.
What Is the Main Cause of Endometriosis?
This is a difficult question to answer. Unfortunately, the exact cause of endometriosis is unknown, but there are possible explanations and theories.
Retrograde menstruation is thought to be a cause. This is when menstrual blood that contains endometrial cells flows back into the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity. These cells can stick to your pelvic wall and nearby organs where they continue to grow.
If you’ve had a c-section or hysterectomy, surgical scar implantation can occur, and endometrial cells can attach to an incision. Another possible cause is endometrial cell transport. This happens when blood vessels or tissue fluid transports endometrial cells to other areas of the body.
Also, if you have an immune system disorder, it might make it impossible for your body to destroy endometrial tissue growing outside your uterus.
What Are the Symptoms of Endometriosis I Might Experience?
There are several common signs of endometriosis. You may notice heavier than usual periods, painful cramping, pain during intercourse, bleeding between periods, and trouble becoming pregnant. It is also possible to feel fatigued and have diarrhea or constipation as well as nausea during your menstrual cycle. You might also experience depression and anxiety because of the troubling symptoms.
It is possible to experience a few symptoms but not all of them. While it’s tempting to search the Internet for the cause of your symptoms, it’s better to skip that. That’s a situation that can make you feel more stressed and worried than you already are. Instead, take a productive, proactive approach and start keeping a journal. Write down when your symptoms began, how you feel, and what you’ve experienced. Take your journal with you to your appointment and leave the diagnosis to the experts!
How Is Endometriosis Diagnosed?
It is important to have a proper diagnosis, as endometriosis can mimic symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, ovarian cysts, and pelvic inflammatory disease. Your doctor will begin by asking you about your medical history, current medications, and your symptoms.
You should expect to have a pelvic exam too. Your doctor might also order blood and urine tests, and you might need further testing that includes ultrasound, laparoscopy, or both.
How Is Endometriosis Treated?
There are multiple endometriosis treatment options for endometriosis, and fortunately, even the most severe cases can be treated successfully. Your doctor may recommend any of the following depending on your diagnosis:
- Medications: You might find much-needed pain relief by taking over-the-counter medications like anti-inflammatory meds or naproxen sodium.
- Hormone therapy: This might include hormonal contraceptives and progestin therapy (available in pills, injections, or IUD).
- Fertility treatments: If you are having difficulty becoming pregnant, your doctor may suggest in-vitro or stimulating your ovaries to produce more eggs.
- Surgeries: Depending on the severity of your endometriosis, you might benefit from conservative surgery like laparoscopy or, as a last resort, a partial or full hysterectomy.
While it can be frustrating to treat any medical condition, it’s important to keep in mind patience, along with following your doctor’s advice, is key. It might take one or a combination of treatment options to get better.
What Are the Risks if I Leave Endometriosis Untreated?
Endometriosis won’t resolve itself on its own, and it does require medical treatment. In many cases, your symptoms will get worse if you don’t see a doctor. The most common risk of untreated endometriosis is infertility. Left unresolved, you also have a higher risk of getting certain cancers.
While endometriosis itself isn’t fatal, complications of the condition could be. Health problems like small bowel obstruction and ectopic pregnancy can occur, both of which are extremely dangerous.
Is There a Way to Prevent Endometriosis?
At this time, there is no known way to stop endometriosis from occurring. The best you can do for your health is to be aware of any symptoms you are having and make sure to see your doctor when you notice them.
What Are the Risk Factors Associated With Endometriosis?
There are certain factors that can put you at a higher risk of developing endometriosis. Starting your period early, never having children, starting menopause at an older age, high levels of estrogen, disorders of the reproductive organs, and genetics are all risk factors.
For the Best Health Care in Virginia, Choose the Experts at Women’s HealthCare Specialists!
Dr. Navita Modi leads our skilled and experienced team with the belief that every woman deserves to be heard, to be respected, and to have access to the best possible women’s healthcare services. That includes you!
If you are experiencing pelvic pain or other symptoms related to endometriosis, please do not hesitate to contact us at 301-812-3400, or use our convenient online scheduler to request your appointment today. We want to answer all of your questions, such as, “What is the main cause of endometriosis?”
You’ll find our state-of-the-art facility as well as our staff to be warm, inviting, and well-equipped to diagnose and treat your condition.