Symptoms of Endometriosis
Endometriosis affects more than twelve million women in the US alone, and millions more worldwide. This painful disease is commonly found in women of childbearing age and, along with the horrible physical pain, can also cause emotional pain. Often women with endometriosis struggle with infertility issues as a result of the disease.
The Most Basic Sign - Pain
While the cause of endometriosis remains elusive, the symptoms are well known when they actually do present themselves. Many women don't know they have endometriosis because they don't have symptoms. Those women who do experience symptoms commonly experience severe pain during menstruation - mostly in the pelvic region but also in the back and legs - pain during intercourse, bowel movements and urination. A pelvic exam by a doctor can induce pain as well. The pain may vary from month to month and it can also vary greatly between women. Each woman experiences the disease in a way particular to her.
Pelvic pain depends upon where the implants of endometriosis are located.
· Implants located deep in the pelvis or in areas that have pain-sensing nerves are more likely to create serious pain.
· Pain may be caused by substances that are released into the blood by the implants.
· Scar tissue can also produce pain. Lesions cause pulling and tightening on the organs and in the pelvic cavity.
The earlier stages of the disease tend to be the most painful for many women. It is possible that the young endometrial tissue releases prostaglandins that cause spasms. However, the older tissue just burns out and turns into scar tissue. Along with pain, other symptoms of endometriosis include:
· Premenstrual spotting
· Urinary urgency
· Rectal bleeding
· Bloody cough
· Skin nodules
· Diarrhea and tenesmus (sense of rectal fullness)
Endometriosis often mimics other pelvic disorders, which makes it difficult to diagnose without a laparoscopy. Pelvic adhesions, menstrual cramps, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis and ulcer disease are some of the diseases that cause confusion with an endometriosis diagnosis.
How Endometriosis Develops
Many women discover they have endometriosis when they want to have a baby and discover it is much more difficult than they anticipated. Between 30 and 40 percent of women with endometriosis are infertile. This represents two to three times the rate of infertility in the general population.
Every month during menses the uterus sheds the endometrial tissue that lines it. When a woman has endometriosis, the endometrial tissue is not only inside the uterus, but also on the outside, adhering to other organs and places in the pelvic cavity. This tissue grows and sheds blood during menses just like the tissue inside the uterus does. The problem is that there is no place for the flow to exit the body so it sits in the abdominal cavity and wreaks havoc.
How Endometriosis Affects Fertility
The result is inflammation that leads to scarring and adhesions that cling to the reproductive organs. In latter stage endometriosis, these adhesions can be so extensive that they encase the ovaries and freeze the fallopian tubes and uterus in place. The scar tissue that surrounds the ovaries traps the eggs and infertility occurs. As the disease progresses, more and more scar tissue develops.
Even milder cases of endometriosis can cause infertility. The release of hormones through the young endometrial implants can cause muscular contractions or spasms in the reproductive organs. The fallopian tube may not be able to pick up the egg and the stimulated uterus may reject implantation. Additionally, endometriosis may result in luteal phase defect that interferes with implantation or it may cause a luteinized unruptured follicle.
The symptoms of endometriosis are many and varied. They can be addressed in a number of ways - through surgery, medical treatment, hormone therapy and alternative therapies.