Is There A Way To Prevent Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a relatively common disease, affecting approximately 5 million American women. It involves the growth of endometrial tissue in places other than the uterus. Endometrial tissue is unique in that it responds to periodically released hormones, causing the tissue to increase in size and vascularization (the formation of blood vessels) each month, only to be broken down and discarded at the end of a 28-day cycle - more commonly known as the menstrual cycle. Normally, this monthly build-up of blood and tissue is released into the environment through the vagina. However, when endometrial growths occur in places other than the uterus, this blood and tissue has no where to go but inside the abdominal cavity. Eventually, the accumulation of excess tissue within the abdominal cavity puts pressure on other organs, which is manifested as extremely painful, sometimes debilitating, cramps. Endometriosis can also lead to weight gain and a lack of sex drive.
Who Gets Endometriosis?
Generally only menstruating women (i.e. between the ages of 15 and 50) experience endometriosis.
What Causes Endometriosis?
While the exact cause of endometriosis in unknown, there are several theories.
Retrograde Menstruation Theory
First promoted by Dr. John Sampson in the 1920s, the Retrograde Menstruation Theory proposes that backward-flowing menstrual tissue deposits onto the fallopian tubes as well as other pelvic organs (remember that each fallopian tube is open to the abdominal cavity on one end, allowing eggs released from the ovary to enter the fallopian tubes). This deposited tissue then "seeds" itself, and continues responding to hormones just as endometrial tissue within the uterus. However, in recent years researchers have proven this theory unlikely, as it doesn't explain why women who"ve had hysterectomies developed endometriosis. It has also been discovered that most women have some backward-flowing menstrual tissue, and yet a small portion actually develop the disease, further discrediting this theory.
The Genetic Theory
A more likely theory, the Genetic Theory, suggests that women with a family history of endometriosis are more likely to develop the disease themselves. Dr. Stephen Kennedy at Oxford University discovered that first-degree relatives of women who have endometriosis are much more likely to develop the disease. It has also been shown that endometriosis tends to worsen in subsequent generations.
A sleuth of other theories exists. Some believe that endometrial fragments travel through the lymphatic system; this would explain the instances where endometrial growths have been found in the lungs, skin, or brain. Others believe that stem cells (capable of differentiating into any kind of cell) may have been deposited the wrong area during development, and later developed into endometrial tissue.
Some studies suggest that limiting caffeine and alcohol intake may lower the chance of developing endometriosis. It has also been suggested that regular exercise, the use of oral contraceptives, and early/frequent pregnancies may reduce the incidence of endometriosis.
http://womenshealth.about.com/cs/endometriosis/a/endotreatdiagsu.htm http://www.emedicinehealth.com/endometriosis/page13_em.htm#Prevention http://www.4women.gov/faq/endomet.htm#e