Top 12 Endometriosis Questions Answered
According to the World Health Organization, around 10% of women around the globe suffer from endometriosis. Unfortunately, the accurate amount of women who have endometriosis is unknown since diagnosis is achieved through laparoscopic surgery. While it's more common in women in their 30s, symptoms can appear in those as young as 15.
Endometriosis can cause a variety of fertility and menstrual cycle problems. This guide will discuss the answers to the top 12 endometriosis questions.
1. What Is Endometriosis?
According to the Mayo Clinic, endometriosis is a painful condition that affects a woman's uterus. Endometriosis occurs when tissues that are similar to the tissue lining the inside of the uterus grow on the outside of it. In addition to involving your uterus, endometriosis can also affect the pelvic area, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
The outside tissue acts just like endometrial tissue. The tissue thickens, then breaks down, and bleeds with each month's menstrual cycle. However, since the tissue can't exit the body, it gets trapped.
If endometriosis extends to the ovaries, cysts can begin to form. These cysts are called endometriomas.
Additionally, the tissue surrounding the pelvic region can get irritated. Over time, adhesions and scar tissue can form.
2. What Is the Main Cause of Endometriosis?
You might be wondering, "what is the main cause of endometriosis?" The exact cause for this disorder isn't known. There are a few different theories that point to various causes of endometriosis.
One suspected cause is retrograde menstruation. This occurs when menstrual blood that contains endometrial cells flows back into the pelvic cavity via the fallopian tubes instead of exiting the body. The cells stick to the body's pelvic walls where they continue to grow and thicken.
Endometriosis also tends to run in families. This leads some to believe that the condition is genetic and can be inherited.
Another theory is that a faulty immune system could cause endometriosis. It's thought that different immune system disorders could fail to locate and destroy endometrial cells that are growing on the outside of the uterus.
It's also thought that surgery might cause endometriosis. Surgeries in the abdominal area, like a hysterectomy or c-section, could pick up and move endometrial tissues by mistake.
3. What Are the Symptoms of Endometriosis?
The main symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain. Many people associate this pain or cramping with their monthly cycles. However, those who suffer from endometriosis tend to have menstrual cramping that's much worse than what's considered normal.
Other symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Pain during or after intercourse
- Painful periods or dysmenorrhea
- Excessive bleeding during and between periods
- Pain with urination or bowel movements
- Diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, or bloating during menstrual cycles
Having severe pain or symptoms isn't necessarily a reliable indicator that you have endometriosis or how extensive it is. Some individuals have advanced endometriosis with very little pain. Others have a mild case with severe pain.
Endometriosis is sometimes mistaken for other types of conditions that result in pelvic pain. These conditions irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), or ovarian cysts.
4. How Is Endometriosis Diagnosed?
If you're experiencing any severe symptoms, you should make an appointment with your healthcare provider. They'll ask you to describe your symptoms to better help diagnose your condition.
One of the tests your doctor will conduct is a pelvic exam. Your physician will palpate different areas in your pelvic region to feel for abnormalities. A pelvic exam typically isn't enough to feel the small areas of endometriosis, unless a cyst has formed.
Your doctor will also recommend an ultrasound to examine the inside of your body. A transducer will get inserted into your vagina or pressed against your abdominal area to capture images. Both of these types of ultrasounds are effective in getting a good view of your reproductive organs.
An ultrasound isn't enough to tell your healthcare provider if you have endometriosis. It can show your doctor if you have any cysts that might be associated with endometriosis.
Your doctor also might refer your case to a surgeon for a laparoscopic procedure. According to WebMD, a small video camera is inserted into a small cut made in your abdomen during a laparoscopic procedure. The surgeon can then look for endometrial tissue growing outside of your uterus.
5. How Is Endometriosis Treated?
Your physician will recommend the best treatment plan based on your symptoms and current situation. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, might be recommended to help ease some of the more painful side effects of endometriosis. You might also look into taking hormonal supplements to help regulate your cycle.
Hormonal therapy is another treatment option that might help reduce or eliminate painful side effects. Hormone medication, like birth control, might slow down the growth of endometrial tissue. It could also prevent new tissues from implanting.
If none of these avenues are working or you're trying to get pregnant, your doctor might recommend surgery to remove the excess tissue. Conservative surgery can preserve your ovaries and uterus while removing the implants.
6. Will Endometriosis Cause Weight Gain?
Have you wondered, "will endometriosis cause weight gain?" There's evidence that weight gain is linked to endometriosis, but there isn't any scientific data to back it up.
Fluid retention and bloating are common symptoms of endometriosis. Bloating doesn't cause your body to gain fat, but it can make you feel and look heavier.
Many of the side effects of endometriosis are painful. Being in constant pain might make it difficult for individuals to stay active and exercise. Over time, this can, unfortunately, lead to weight gain.
7. Where Does Endometriosis Pain Occur?
If you're wondering "where does endometriosis pain occur," those who suffer from the medical condition typically feel pain in the pelvis or lower abdomen. However, pain can happen anywhere in the body.
The pain can occur during your menstrual cycle or for the entirety of the month. It can also present different forms of pain at various times during the day.
8. Why Endometriosis Causes Fatigue?
Ever wonder why endometriosis causes fatigue? The main reason those with endometriosis experience fatigue is because their body is fighting to get rid of the diseased tissue.
As the body's immune system attempts to fight endometriosis, inflammatory toxins called cytokines are secreted by the tissues. What people might consider being feelings of fatigue are actually the release of internal chemicals.
Keep in mind that the fatigue endometriosis patients experience isn't the same as feeling tired due to lack of sleep. The fatigue they feel is constant exhaustion. It can also be a warning sign that a pain flare-up is approaching.
9. Are Endometriosis Symptoms Similar to Pregnancy?
Some individuals might wonder, "Are endometriosis symptoms similar to pregnancy?" The answer is, no.
In fact, some patients might experience relief from their endometriosis symptoms while they're pregnant. This is because while you're pregnant, your body's progesterone levels increase. The higher levels can often induce a "remission" phase from endometriosis.
10. Are Endometriosis and IBS Related?
According to Contemporary OB/GYN, women who suffer from endometriosis are at least two times as likely to develop IBS. If you've been wondering, "Are endometriosis and IBS related?" the answer is, yes.
Both IBS and endometriosis have common symptoms. Since the side effects overlap, it can be difficult for doctors to diagnoses the source of their patient's discomfort and pain is.
The common symptom between the two is visceral sensitivity. Someone with IBS or endometriosis has a decreased pain tolerance for pelvic or abdominal pain since their nerve endings are sensitive.
Some of the shared symptoms between endometriosis and IBS include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Pain and discomfort during bowel movements
11. Are Endometriosis and Fibromyalgia Related?
Have you wondered, "Are endometriosis and fibromyalgia related?" Some women who suffer from endometriosis also encounter other chronic conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. It's not definitively known why those with endometriosis might have fibromyalgia, but it's thought that the immune system might be a factor.
12. Will Endometriosis Go Away?
If you suffer from endometriosis and have wondered, "Will endometriosis go away?" unfortunately, it won't resolve on its own. Your symptoms will remain if left untreated. Sometimes, your symptoms can get worse.
Which treatment option your doctor recommends depends upon the severity of your condition, whether you want to get pregnant, and your symptoms.
As a person ages, their endometriosis symptoms might fade or disappear completely as they go through menopause. Until that time, it's recommended to speak with a healthcare provider about how to manage your symptoms.
Your Endometriosis Questions Answered
It's common to have many endometriosis questions if you believe you suffer from that health problem. If you're experiencing any unpleasant symptoms each month, contact your physician to speak to them about what you can do to find relief.
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