Painful, heavy periods can make a woman miserable, but when should these symptoms become cause for concern? It isn’t unusual to feel uncomfortable with cramps and abdominal pain during the monthly cycle, but these can be symptoms of endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a condition whereby the tissue which normally lines the uterus actually starts to grow in other areas of the body – particularly in the pelvic region, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. This tissue continues to react normally to the menstrual cycle each month, and it bleeds in the same way but with no way to escape out of the body.
Whereas the endometrial tissue in the uterus normally builds up, breaks down, bleeds, and is expelled as a period, the tissue growing elsewhere are trapped. This causes inflammation, pain, and the formation of scar tissue.
Endometriosis can affect women across all ethnic backgrounds and at any age, but it most commonly affects women during their reproductive years between the ages of 25 and 35. It is believed that there are an estimated 10% of women suffering with the condition in the United States, but many women remain undiagnosed.
Early Endometriosis Symptoms
The first signs and symptoms of endometriosis aren’t always easy to identify, and they can vary significantly depending on the location and the severity of the condition. Some women can be badly affected, while others do not exhibit any noticeable symptoms. The main, recognized signs and symptoms of endometriosis are:
- Severe, debilitating abdominal cramps
- Pelvic pain, usually worse during a period
- Long periods
- Heavy menstrual flow
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Pain/cramping during or after sexual intercourse
- Bowel and urinary disorders
- Painful bowel movements or urination during menstruation
- Chronic fatigue
What Causes Endometriosis?
The cause of endometriosis is still unknown, but there are several theories as to the cause of the condition, including:
Retrograde menstruation – This is the backward flow of menstrual debris and lining of the uterus through the fallopian tubes which then embeds itself into other organs.
Genetics – Women who have a close relative with endometriosis are thought to be five to seven times more likely to inherit the condition.
Autoimmune condition – A problem with the immune system and the body’s inflammatory response may contribute to endometriosis.
How Is Endometriosis Diagnosed?
If you are showing signs and symptoms of endometriosis, it is important to discuss this with your doctor. The physician can then review your medical history and conduct a pelvic examination. Imaging testing, such as ultrasound or MRI, may be performed to examine the reproductive organs and to assess for endometriosis.
A laparoscopy may also be performed in order to confirm the diagnosis and to determine the extent of the condition. A laparoscopy is a type of minimally invasive surgery in which a laparoscope is used to view the reproductive organs. Images from the laparoscope are viewed by your doctor on a video monitor in real-time.
Full-Service Hospital in Wooster, Ohio
At the Wooster Community Hospital, we offer comprehensive, full-service medical care for all of a woman’s sexual and reproductive health needs. We have a full staff of trained, approachable gynecologists and gynecological assistants who are specialists in diagnosing and treating many conditions affecting the female reproductive system, including endometriosis.
If you have concerns about endometriosis or would like more information, call us today to schedule a consultation with our team at (330) 263-8100 or request an appointment online. You can trust our experienced medical team to take good care of you and your whole family.