Endometriosis is a condition in which the endometrium, or the uterus lining, grows outside the uterus. The endometrium acts just like it normally would during a menstrual cycle by thickening, breaking down, and bleeding. However, since the body can’t expel the tissue through the uterus, it builds up inside the body. The buildup can produce cysts, irritation, swelling, scar tissue and adhesions around the uterus.
The condition can become very painful and lead to infertility. Aside from pelvic pain, symptoms include heavy periods and pain during intercourse, urination, and bowel movements.
Researchers aren’t sure exactly what causes endometriosis, but the possibilities include:
Instead of exiting the body, menstrual blood flows back into the fallopian tubes and pelvic cavity. These endometrial cells get stuck outside the uterus and continue to grow, thicken and bleed during menstruation.
Factors that seem to increase the risk for endometriosis include never giving birth, having an early period, short menstrual cycles, late menopause, high estrogen levels, family history, and uterine abnormalities. Contributing lifestyle factors include alcohol consumption and low body mass index.
Early treatment is imperative to minimize pain and avoid fertility problems. Early intervention is especially crucial if you want to get pregnant because as the condition progresses, it becomes challenging to have children.
Treatment typically includes medication as the first line of treatment and surgery as a last resort. Medications for endometriosis include anti-inflammatory pain relievers, birth control, and gonadotropin-releasing hormone agents. If hormone treatments and pain relievers aren’t effective, Dr. Salom or Dr. Tangir may recommend surgery.
Surgery clears out endometriosis implants, thereby easing your pain and improving fertility. If you’re finished having children or your endometriosis hasn’t responded to other treatments, you may consider having a hysterectomy.
If you’re ready to discuss treatment options for endometriosis, call the Center for Gynecologic Oncology to set up an appointment.