How Can I Reduce My Chances of Getting Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a common condition affecting an estimated 5.5 million American women. It occurs most commonly in women of menstruating age who have never been pregnant. Its development is poorly understood, but research shows correlation between it and things like chemical exposure and genetic predisposition.
This conditions results from the abnormal implantation and/or development of endometrial tissue. Endometrial tissue normally lines the uterus, where it responds to the periodic release of hormones by bulking up with blood vessels and cells. Such bulking up is necessary for pregnancy to occur as fertilized eggs require the nourishment provided by endometrial tissue. If an egg is not implanted, the excess endometrial tissue and blood is discarded through the vagina during normal menstruation. When endometrial tissue is shed in places other than the uterus (common locations being the fallopian tubes, ovaries, pelvic organs, abdominal walls, and sometimes the bowels ) it has no where to exit the body. As a result, built-up blood and tissue create painful pressure and cramps.
How Does Endometrial Tissue Develop in Other Places?
No one knows every reason for the development of endometrial tissue in places other than the uterus. Most often, endometriosis develops in places surrounding the reproductive tissues (uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries). This is likely to happen for several reasons.
Retrograde Menstruation Theory
Firstly, backward-flowing endometrial tissue may implant itself in places further up or even outside of the reproductive tract since the fallopian tubes open into the body cavity. Secondly, it is thought those with endometriosis may have a genetic mutation that prevents their immune system from recognizing and destroying the misplaced endometrial cells.
Endometrial cells can also be transported through the bloodstream if they happen to be dislodged, like during surgery. Endometriosis in strange locations like the skin and lungs are thought to develop this way. It is also relatively common for endometrial tissue to develop in scars after surgery, especially those like Caesarian sections.
In most cases, endometriosis has such a strong genetic link that there is no way to completely prevent it. Those with endometriosis do have several traits in common, however, (such as long and heavy periods, starting menstruation at an early age, and having a cycle less than 27 days), most likely related to dynamic hormone release or sensitive endometrial cells. If you do have any of these characteristics it's possible to tame them to some extent with hormone treatment, reducing the risk of endometrial cells implanting as a result of backward-flow menstruation. Regular exercise often dampens the severity of menstruation and can also reduce the risk of endometrial cell implantation. Also, the Endometriosis Association recently made the startling discovery that nearly 80% of rhesus monkeys exposed to dioxin developed endometriosis. They also found that greater levels of exposure resulted in more severe endometriosis. Dioxin is a chemical byproduct of bleached pulp and paper manufacturing, pesticide manufacturing, and the incineration of medical and municipal products. Although there is currently no way to prevent the genetic mutation(s) responsible for endometriosis, there are measures one can take to decrease the chance of developing a severe form of endometriosis. Most of the time when all other treatment has failed a hysterectomy is preformed to eliminate the pain from endometriosis and any chance of regrowth.
Sources: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/endometriosis/page13_em.htm#Prevention http://www.medicinenet.com/endometriosis/page2.htm http://killercramps.org/endo.html http://www.4women.gov/faq/endomet.htm#d