What Are The Stages Of Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a fairly common disease in women, most often between the ages of 25 and 40. It is characterized by the growth of endometrial tissue (a unique tissue type found only in the mammalian uterus) in places other than the uterus. Although endometrial growths are benign and therefore non-cancerous, they are capable of causing serious discomfort and reproductive complications. The uterus as an organ is unique in that it periodically sheds its inner tissue. When a woman is of menstruating age (14-50 years old), her uterus responds to hormones by either building up tissue within it or shedding that built-up tissue. This tissue is called endometrial tissue and is highly vascularized.
The endometrium's sole purpose to provide nourishment for a developing fetus. If, during the menstrual cycle, an egg is not fertilized and does not implant into the endometrium, the uterus is signaled to shed its inner lining. While the periodic bulking up and shedding of the endometrium is completely normal, the growth of endometrial tissue in places other than the uterus can cause problems. The tissue and blood that leave the uterus once a month are removed from the body through the vagina. Extra-uterine endometrial tissue responds just as normal endometrial tissue does, resulting in a periodic growth and subsequent shedding of tissue and blood into the body. Because the body cavity only has so much space, the added volume of endometrial growths puts pressure on other organs (such as the bladder and bowels) causing severe discomfort, in addition to internal bleeding.
A woman with endometriosis may go several years without knowing she has the condition, as menstrual cramps are variable even with normal menstruation. Diagnosis is therefore difficult based on symptoms alone. Often, a laparoscopy is required for a definitive diagnosis. A laparoscopy involves examining the lower abdomen by inserting a small camera into several small incisions. If suspect tissue is found, a small sample (called a biopsy) can be removed and tested. Endometriosis can also be diagnosed with less invasive procedures such as MRI or ultrasound.
To effectively treat endometriosis, one must know the severity of the disease. Milder cases can be treated with pain medication and conservative surgery (the removal of a few small growths). More severe cases require a more thorough treatment regimen, including anti-inflammatory medication, suppression of ovary function, and more complex surgery. To help doctors decide the most appropriate treatment on a case-by-case basis, a staging system has been developed and is detailed below: Stage I: minimal disease, characterized by several superficial growths Stage II: mild disease, characterized by a greater number of growths, some deep Stage III: moderate disease, many deep growths, small growths on one or both ovaries, some filmy adhesions. Stage IV: severe disease, many deep growths, larges growths on one or both ovaries, many dense adhesions, sometimes including rectum-uterus adhesions. Reducing your chances of endometriosis can be difficult to do. Drugs used to inhibit ovarian function are often undesirable as they can cause many adverse side effects due to their hormonal function. However, in the most severe cases, such drug treatments must be administered to protect the life of the individual. Natural treatment options are a great alternative you and your doctor can decide on together.
Sources: http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec18/ch247/ch247a.html http://www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/healthyliving/womens/endometriosis.php http://www.emedicinehealth.com/endometriosis/page5_em.htm#Exams%20and%20Tests http://www.4women.gov/faq/endomet.htm