Jump to a section
What Is Endometriosis?
What Causes Endometriosis?
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic disease that affects approximately 1 in 10 women, and even some men.
Endometriosis occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus called the endometrium, grows abnormally elsewhere in the body.
Endometriosis lesions or growths are most commonly found within the pelvis, but they can be found almost anywhere in the body.
Endometriosis is challenging because it often takes a long time to diagnose – on average, 8 to 12 years. This is because many doctors are not familiar with the signs and symptoms of endometriosis.
It is important to educate all girls and young women about endometriosis, so that they know what is considered normal, and what might be a sign of a problem.
Many teenagers have discomfort with their periods (and adults too); however, any pain or discomfort that disrupts your life and prevents you from participating in school, social activities, work, or sports, is not considered normal.
Period pain should be manageable with over-the-counter medications such as Aleve or Advil.
If it is not, and you have some of the symptoms listed below, it might be time to talk to your doctor about the possibility of endometriosis.
- Pain symptoms that are disabling or increasingly painful menstrual cycles, severe menstrual cramps, or chronic pelvic pain, and/or pain with sexual activity
- Bowel symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, abdominal bloating, nausea and vomiting, and painful bowel movements, especially if these symptoms vary according to your menstrual cycle
- Bladder symptoms such as bladder pain, pain with urination, or frequent urination
About 35 percent of women with endometriosis also have infertility or recurrent pregnancy loss.
What Causes Endometriosis?
What causes endometriosis to develop is not well understood, but there are probably multiple contributing factors including genetic, developmental, environmental, and possibly problems in the functioning of the immune system.
To see and identify the endometriosis lesions, a surgical procedure called a laparoscopy is required. Laparoscopy is a surgery that uses a thin, lighted tube with a camera that is put through a cut (incision) in the belly to look at your pelvic area.
This same procedure can also be used to treat endometriosis by excising (cutting out) the lesions.
Unfortunately there are no non-invasive tests for endometriosis yet. There are no blood tests that can diagnose endometriosis, and endometriosis is only sometimes seen by ultrasound or MRI. That is why laparoscopy is required in order to make the diagnosis of endometriosis.
There are many options for treating endometriosis; however, there is no cure for endometriosis yet.
The most effective treatment for endometriosis is surgical removal (called excision) of the endometriosis lesions.
However, many patients find they get the best results by combining endometriosis surgery with natural approaches that enhance their wellness.
There are also medications that may help treat the symptoms. None of the medications can actually get rid of endometriosis growths, so usually once the medication is stopped, the symptoms return.
Commonly used medications include:
- Birth control pills
- Mirena IUD
- Anti-inflammatories such as Advil or Aleve
Birth control pills, the Mirena IUD, and Lupron are all hormonal treatments aimed at suppressing the menstrual cycle, and thus, suppressing the endometriosis symptoms. These treatments work for some patients but are usually not very effective long term.
Anti-inflammatory medications are often used to relieve the inflammation and pain resulting from endometriosis, and sometimes additional pain medications, or other symptom-relieving medications are used as needed.
Many patients find additional alternative or complementary medical approaches helpful. Diet changes, exercise (an appropriate type that doesn’t worsen symptoms for you—even just walking), pelvic physical therapy, acupuncture, and naturopathic medicine can all help manage symptoms.
In addition, stress management is extremely important for any person suffering with a chronic disease.
Various approaches can be used successfully, but the key is to practice regularly. Choose something you enjoy, and do it every day!
Stress management possibilities include:
- Tai chi
- Qigong (a traditional Chinese moving meditation practice)
- Guided imagery/visualization
- Relaxation exercises/breathing exercises
If you want to learn more about endometriosis, there are many online resources available to learn more, or get support from other endometriosis patients.
However, choose your sources of information carefully, as there is a lot of misinformation about endometriosis on the internet. Some good sources of accurate information and support include: