Endometriosis – The Fear of the Unknown
Every month, many young women experience an event that is unique to the female human species: the monthly period. Aside from pregnancy and giving birth, the monthly period is one of the most intricate, memorable, and irritating experiences for a woman. Menstruation, or period, is a woman’s monthly bleeding. It is the preparation of a woman’s body for pregnancy. Without a pregnancy, the uterus sheds its lining. The blood that is shed includes tissue from inside the uterus or womb. The blood passes out of the body through the vagina. Periods usually start at age 12 and continue until menopause, at about 50. There are certain changes that happen during a woman’s menstrual period. Some women become irritated, depressed, and emotional. Physical changes also happen before and during menstruation like having swollen breasts, feeling bloated, head aches, and back pains. However, there are women who suffer severe pain during their menstrual period that could be a symptom for endometriosis.
Endometriosis is not always accompanied by symptoms. But in cases where it does, a woman usually suffers from what is called unusually painful periods or dysmenorrhea. Endometriosis is a disorder in which bits of tissue from the inner lining of the uterus (the endometrium) grow inside a woman’s body, outside of the uterus. The uterus is a hollow organ within a woman’s abdomen where a fertilized egg is implanted and develops into a baby normally over a period of nine months. During the menstrual cycle, some cells pass outside the uterus and implant themselves in the pelvis, ovaries, fallopian tubes, intestines, and even in the lungs. The misplaced bits of the endometrial tissue can cause pain and irregular bleeding. It can also affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant.
Endometriosis is diagnosed through physical examination. Occasionally, during a recto-vaginal exam, the doctor can feel nodules or endometrial implants behind the uterus and along the ligaments that are attached to the pelvic wall. At other times, no nodules are felt, but the examination itself causes unusual pain or discomfort. A doctor may also suspect endometriosis from a woman’s symptoms or from a pelvic exam. Laparoscopy is a short surgical procedure performed through a very tiny incision in the abdomen. A laparoscope, a pencil-thin instrument is inserted into the incision gives the physician a clear view of the inside of the abdominal cavity on a television monitor.
Endometriosis can also be cause of woman’s infertility. It is estimated that 40 to 50 percent of infertile women may have endometriosis. Endometriosis may be related to infertility in several ways. It is possible that scar tissue from endometriosis can form around the ovary and restrict the available surface area of the ovary for egg release. Adhesions affecting the fallopian tubes may interfere with their ability to pick up an egg released by an ovary and transport it to the uterus. Occasionally, endometriosis will form inside the fallopian tube, resulting in blockage and making fertilization impossible. Women who experience deep pain during intercourse may choose to have intercourse less often, thus reducing the likelihood of becoming pregnant.
In some women, endometriosis causes no symptoms or mild symptoms and does not need to be treated at all. However, untreated endometriosis can continue to worsen, so these women should continue to have regular examinations to monitor the condition. If endometriosis is causing symptoms or is interfering with a woman’s ability to become pregnant, several treatment options are available like medication, surgery or hysterectomy. The precise cause of endometriosis is unknown. There are certain steps that a woman can take to help prevent endometriosis or keep it from becoming worse. A woman who experience abdominal pain especially before the start of her period should see her physician. A woman with reproductive organ problems that obstruct menstrual flow should consider surgery. Endometriosis is associated with infertility, therefore women at risk for endometriosis may want to have children before their late 30s. Still, early diagnosis offers the best chance of effective treatment so women can stop wondering and suffering from their fear of the unknown.