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Endometriosis is a condition that affects nearly 10% of women during their reproductive cycle. It accounts for nearly 30% of infertility cases in women. At least 5.5 million women in the U.S. and Canada suffer from endometriosis. Learn more about the symptoms of endometriosis and how it is diagnosed. What is the treatment for endometriosis? What are the repercussions of endometriosis on infertility and pregnancy?
Endometriosis is a gynecological condition where the tissue that lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. The uterine tissue, known as endometrium grows on the ovaries, fallopian tubes and outer surface of the uterus. In some cases, it is also noticed on the bladder, bowel, intestines, colon, vagina, cesarean and laparoscopy scars. Rarely does endometrial tissue appear on the lung, arms and thighs.
Women suffering from endometriosis may be suffering from a dysfunction of the immune system. It could be due to environmental factors. Endometrial tissue outside the uterus does not get sloughed off during the menstrual cycle. Many a time, the endometrial tissue collects as a large amount of blood in the ovary and forms ovarian cysts. Over time, these cysts can grow considerably and take on a darker color, giving them the name 'chocolate cysts'.
A woman with a family history of endometriosis has 6 times greater chances of suffering from the condition than others. This condition can affect any menstruating woman - from her first period till her menopause. Diagnosing endometriosis may not be easy.
Pelvic pain is the most common symptom of endometriosis. This pain can so severe as to interfere with the woman's normal routine. Typically, endometriosis symptoms of pain are during ovulation and during other periods of the menstrual cycle as well. Urination may be painful. Women may experience pain and discomfort during sexual intercourse. Women suffering from endometriosis tend to suffer lower back pain. Other signs and symptoms of endometriosis are heavy and irregular bleeding and abdominal bloating. Look out for these symptoms of endometriosis:
Focal pelvic tenderness
Painful urination and bowel movements during menstrual periods
A pelvic examination is conducted on a woman complaining of symptoms of endometriosis. It can reveal the presence of tender nodules in the ovary regions or the posterior vaginal wall. Treatment for endometriosis will depend on the extent of the disease as well as the woman's age. The location of the implants, the depth to which they penetrate the tissue and their overall size contribute in deciding the appropriate treatment for endometriosis.
Analgesics are prescribed to relieve the pain and discomfort.
Hormone therapy is advocated by some as treatment against endometriosis. Birth control pills or progestins are often prescribed. This may help in tempering the estrogen production and relieving some of the signs and symptoms of endometriosis. Progesterone pills or injections can be used to treat endometriosis. The drug Danazol is also sometimes prescribed. Anti-gonodotropins produce a pseudo menopausal state and can relieve some of the problems associated with endometriosis. But treatment of endometriosis with drugs is limited to about six months or so to prevent a detrimental effect on bone density.
Laparoscopic surgery is yet another endometriosis treatment advocated by some doctors. The surgeon aims at removing all endometriosis lesions, cysts and adhesions. This is done is severe cases of endometriosis and infertility.
Endometriosis and pregnancy
Many women with endometriosis can conceive naturally. During pregnancy, the endometriosis implants are less active since there is no ovulation. The increased levels of progesterone, HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) and Prolactin during pregnancy affect the endometriosis condition. Most women feel much better during pregnancy. But endometriosis usually comes back after pregnancy and lactation.
Since endometrial tissue that forms outside of the uterus has no place to go, it causes pools of blood that cause inflammation and scarring of tissue. This may result in blockage of fallopian tubes. The scarring adversely affects the ability of the fallopian tubes to pick up eggs. It can interfere with ovulation on account of ovarian cysts that may be formed. Infertility is noticed in nearly a sizeable percentage of women suffering from acute endometriosis. In fact, endometriosis is a major cause of infertility. Infertility linked to endometriosis is usually treated with laparoscopic surgery.