Almost 90 million women worldwide have been diagnosed with endometriosis, a chronic illness which affects the lining of the uterus. About 5 million women in America are known to have the illness. Endometriosis is painful, and though usually not life-threatening, it can have serious consequences such as infertility, and interference with organs. Scientists have not found a cure; there are only strategies to manage pain and cope with this illness.
What is it?
Endometriosis occurs when the endometrium, or uterus lining, is not shed properly during the menstruation cycle. The lining detaches, but gets deposited outside of the uterus, where it bleeds, often becoming inflamed or scarred. These deposits expand in size with each menstrual cycle, causing increasingly painful periods and sexual intercourse, as well as potentially affecting the process and health of other organs.
Who's at Risk?
The bulk of the population at risk is pre-menopausal women; they make up to 98% of those who suffer from endometriosis. Demographically, it has been suggested that white women make up the largest group of women affected by endometriosis, but this may be due to the limited studies available. Other risk factors include:
- Beginning menstruation early in life
- Family history of endometriosis
- Heavy bleeding during menstruation
- Later age for motherhood having had no children
- Short cycles, but long flow
- Iron deficiency
Orgasms and Endometriosis
Frequent orgasms have been linked to a decreased risk for endometriosis. A Yale study suggests that orgasms can possibly direct menstruation through the cervix, and not the fallopian tubes, a finding which supports the theory that a backed up or retrograde menstrual flow causes endometriosis. It is important to note that the causes of endometriosis are still being researched and the retrograde flow theory is only one of many.
What causes endometriosis?
One theory has to do with retrograde menstrual flow. As outlined above, the menstrual tissue and blood released every month flows back into the fallopian tubes and collects on organs where it builds up over the months. Studies suggest that the immune system can suffer from this, further complicating the illness. Another is metaplasia. The tissue which lines the uterus takes the place of other kinds of tissue outside the uterus. Genes are also theorized to contribute to the development of endometriosis. It has been shown that a person is six times more likely to get endometriosis if a first relative such as a mother or sister has it.
How can endometriosis be managed?
As stated, endometriosis is not curable, but a plan for managing and coping with the illness can be instituted. Discuss options with your health care provider. Following are some additional tips that can be incorporated into your management plan:
- Boost your immune system. Eating right, exercising, getting enough rest and taking supplements can all aid in supporting a healthy immune system, which is needed to ward off illnesses and infections.
- Exercise. Excess estrogen has been linked to endometriosis, so consider daily exercise as part of your health regimen.
- Avoid Drugs and Alcohol. Cut down on alcohol, caffeine and nicotine. Some evidence suggests that these compound the symptoms of endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a very common illness without a cure. Measures should be taken to get the support you may need from friends and family. Be sure to discuss your progress and health alerts with your doctor.
http://www.med.yale.edu/obgyn/kliman/endometriosis/endomabstracts/Orgasm.html http://www.surgeryencyclopedia.com/La-Pa/Laparoscopy-for-Endometriosis.html http://www.endometriosis.org/causes.html http://www.4women.gov/FAQ/endomet.htm#c