Endometriosis: Description and Symptoms
Endometriosis (from endo, “inside,” and metra, “womb”) is a gynecological medical condition in which the kind of tissue that normally lines the uterus (endometrium) grows somewhere else. It can grow on the ovaries, behind the uterus, or on the bowels or bladder. Rarely, endometrial tissue grows in other parts of the body.
It is a chronic disease without a known cure, and a leading cause of hospitalization for gynecologic surgery.
Symptoms often lead to health distress and interfere with normal activities. Some women with endometriosis find it difficult to conceive naturally and require medical assistance to become pregnant.
Endometriosis is a common problem. Sometimes, it may run in the family. Although endometriosis is typically diagnosed between ages 25 to 35, the condition probably begins about the time that regular menstruation begins.
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A woman who has a mother or sister with endometriosis is six times more likely to develop endometriosis than women in the general population.
Other possible risk factors include:
- Starting menstruation at an early age
- Never having had children
- Frequent menstrual cycles
- Periods that last seven or more days
- Problems such as a closed hymen, which blocks the flow of menstrual blood during the period.
- Pain before and during periods
- Pain with sex
- Painful urination during periods
- Painful bowel movements during periods
- Other gastrointestinal upsets such as diarrhea, constipation, nausea.
In addition, many women with endometriosis suffer from:
- Chemical sensitivities
- Frequent yeast infections
There are several theories as to how endometriosis develops and no one of these adequately explains all cases of endometriosis
Based on clinical and other scientific research, the theory that best explains most cases of endometriosis is that of retrograde menstruation. When a woman has a period, it is common for some of the menstrual fluid (which contains endometrium) to pass backwards, out of the tubes and into pelvic cavity where the ovaries, bowel and bladder are located. This is called retrograde menstruation.
What we don’t understand well is why, when most women have retrograde menstruation, only about 6 to 10 percent develop clinical endometriosis.