Why Do Patches Of Endometriosis Cause Pain & Health Problems?
If you're a woman, chances are you can empathize with the irritation of menstruation. Imagine having those painful symptoms in places other than your uterus, and often more severe. This is a reality for over 5 million American women who suffer from endometriosis.
What Is Endometriosis?
The uterus is lined with a special type of tissue called the endometrium. The endometrium responds to periodically released hormones by increasing in size and becoming heavily vascularized (blood vessels). This buildup of tissue and vessels is then broken down and discarded once a month during menstruation. Sometimes endometrial tissue can be implanted in places outside the uterus where it continues to respond to hormones. This misplaced tissue has no way to exit the body once broken down, causing a painful buildup in inconvenient locations.
Symptoms and Why They Occur
Most women with endometriosis symptoms experience pelvic pain, often increasing in severity just before or during menstruation. This pain is the result of endometrial growths pushing against other parts of the body: the colon, outer uterus or ovaries, or the abdominal wall. This pushing can also cause the lower back to ache. Endometriosis patients may experience frequent constipation as endometrial growths push on the colon or rectum, preventing passage through the bowels. The body will often cause diarrhea when the bowels are obstructed. Fatigue is another common symptom of endometriosis. While its occurrence isn't perfectly understood, it is believed to be the result of experiencing chronic pain throughout the body as well as the fact that those with endometriosis often have a slightly dysfunctional immune system - causing the body to dedicate a lot of energy to its function.
Complications of Endometriosis
Some of the more strange cases of endometriosis occur in the brain or lungs. Endometrial tissue in such locations can cause chest pain, bloody sputum, headaches, or seizures. Endometriosis can also result in frequent yeast infections, for reasons yet to be elucidated. Those with endometriosis have been found to have an increased risk for developing a certain kind of ovarian cancer called epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). The reasons for this correlation aren't well understood. It could be that endothelial tissue located on ovaries actually transform into cancer cells. Or it may be that EOC results from the same genetic and environmental factors responsible for the development of endometriosis.
Avoiding the Pain and Health Problems Caused by Endometriosis
There is currently no definite way to prevent endometriosis. Those who develop it, whether spontaneously or as the result of surgery, are most likely genetically predisposed. There are, however, reasonably effective methods to prevent the uncontrolled progression of endometrial growths. Contraceptives prevent the action of natural hormones on endometrial implants, stunting their growth. Exercise limits the release of several reproductive hormones responsible for endometrial tissue growth. If growths are large enough to cause severe problems within the body they can be surgically removed and later controlled hormonally. Endometriosis is a potentially harmful disease that is not to be taken lightly. If you suspect you have endometriosis, prompt diagnosis and treatment can do wonders to prevent the common symptoms and complications of this strange condition.