As an OB/GYN, Endometriosis is a condition that I see and treat almost every day. Like most people, you have probably heard of endometriosis, but do you really know what it is, what it’s symptoms are, and how it could affect your life? With more than 1 in 10 women suffering from Endometriosis, chances are that endometriosis will affect you or someone close to you. Part one of this blog breaks down what exactly endometriosis is and part two will discuss how you can diagnose and treat endometriosis.
So, what exactly is endometriosis?
To understand what endometriosis is, you have to understand the normal anatomy of the uterus and pelvis. The uterus, for the most part, is a big muscle called the myometrium. The myometrium is the culprit that you can thank for menstrual cramps and labor contractions. The inside of the uterus has a thin lining called the endometrium. This lining thickens leading up to your period and it is this lining that sheds every month when you are having your period. The endometrium should only be inside of the uterus, it should be on any other part of the body.
Endometriosis occurs when this uterine lining (the endometrium) somehow makes its way outside of the uterus and on to other organs (usually located in the pelvis). Looking at the pelvis, you can probably figure out which organs are most often affected. Most cases of endometriosis involve endometrial tissue being found on the outside of the uterus, behind the uterus, on the bladder or intestines, or on the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
The most common symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Dysmenorrhea: Painful periods. Cramping and discomfort during your period are pretty common. What sets the Dysmenorrhea of endometriosis apart from normal period cramps is the severity (usually not relieved by over-the-counter medications like Advil or Motrin) and the location (the pain radiates from the mid-pelvis to the back and often down the legs).
- Pelvic Pain: Women with endometriosis will often experience pelvic pain all month long. The pain just worsens during their period.
- Dyspareunia: Painful sex. Many women with endometriosis have pain during sex that is worse in the missionary position, deep within the vagina and pelvis, and lasts for up to four hours after finishing.
- Dyschezia: Painful bowel movements. Endometriosis can often cause sharp, cramping pain in the pelvis and rectum that occurs during a bowel movement.
- Fertility problems: Many women with endometriosis have a difficult time conceiving despite having periods every month.
Why do these symptoms occur?
All of the symptoms of endometriosis are caused by the endometrial tissue that is in the pelvis or on the pelvic organs. The endometrial tissue doesn’t belong there and your immune system knows it! The immune system fights this “invader” causing inflammation and inflammation causes pain. Beyond the pain caused by inflammation, inflammation also causes scar tissue to form. Scar tissue causes more pain and it can obstruct the fallopian tubes, leading to fertility issues.
So, now that you are an expert on what causes endometriosis and it’s symptoms, the next step will be figuring out how we can diagnose and treat endometriosis. Be sure to check out part 2 of this blog next week and please be sure to share this blog with your friends and ask any questions that you have. You can reach us on any of our social media outlets at TwinDoctorsTV