What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is the abnormal growth of endometrial cells outside the uterus. The growths are commonly referred to as "endometrial implants." Endometriosis affects 10% to 15% of women and is a chronic, sometimes painful condition that can lead to infertility.
Diagnosis of endometriosis usually involves a laparoscopy, a complete medical history, a physical examination, and other tests.
Endometrial implants typically inset in other parts of the reproductive tract, including the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the inside lining of the abdominal cavity, and the outside surfaces of the uterus or intestines. They can also occur in other parts of the body, including the liver, legs, lungs, and rarely, the brain.
The implants are not malignant (cancerous), but the disease may be progressive and symptoms worsen as the patient experiences more menstrual cycles. Because they are made of the same uterine tissue that is shed during menstruation, endometrial implants also break up monthly. The result is internal bleeding, inflammation, chronic pelvic pain, and the formation of blood-filled cysts and scar tissue. Pain is the most prevalent symptom, and nearly 90% of women with chronic pelvic pain have endometriosis.
Scar tissue in the fallopian tubes can interrupt an egg’s passage, resulting in infertility. Some patients do not know they have endometriosis until they have an infertility evaluation. As many as 50% of infertile women have endometriosis. About one-third of women with endometriosis do not experience symptoms.
There are many medical causes of endometriosis. Any woman can experience the pain and/or infertility associated with endometrial implants.
What are endometrial cells?
The endometrium is the mucous surface that lines the inside of the uterus. It contains several layers of cells (i.e., endometrial cells) that vary in appearance and number throughout the menstrual cycle, as the levels of estrogen and progesterone fluctuate. During the luteal phase (the two-week period just before a woman bleeds), for example, the endometrium is thick, its cells are enlarged, the glands bulge, and the arteries are swollen. At menstruation, the endometrium sheds. Following menstruation, new cells grow and the endometrium regenerates. The cells that make up the endometrium normally grow only inside the uterus.
Endometriosis is associated with a variety of symptoms, but there is no consistent pattern and not all women are symptomatic. The two most common symptoms are pain and infertility. Over time, depending on where the endometrial tissue has implanted, other symptoms may appear.
The most common symptom is chronic pelvic pain that generally occurs just before and during menstruation and then decreases after menstruation. About 25% to 67% of women with endometriosis suffer dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation). About 25% experience painful intercourse. Pelvic examinations can also be painful.
Infertility is common. In fact, infertility is the most common symptom that prompts a visit to the doctor’s office for diagnosis.
Endometriosis that develops in other parts of the pelvic region may result in bowel-related or urinary tract symptoms (e.g., painful or difficult bowel movements, bloody urine). If the lungs are involved, endometriosis may cause pleuritic pain (the pleura is the thin layer of tissue that coats and protects the lungs) or hemoptysis. If endometrial cells implant in the brain, the patient may experience seizures.
Endometriosis may be caused by retrograde menstruation, coelomic metaplasia, and congenital factors. The immune system may allow endometrial cells to establish themselves in other parts of the body and exposure to dioxin and related environmental toxins may also play a role.
Retrograde menstruation (also known as "reverse menstruation") occurs when blood and endometrial tissue back up into the fallopian tubes and enter the pelvic and abdominal cavities instead of flowing out through the cervix and vagina. Reverse menstruation is common, occurring in about 90% of women, and may cause endometriosis.
"Metaplasia" refers to the transformation of one kind of tissue into another. Coelomic metaplasia refers to cells that transform into endometrial cells, perhaps as a result of chronic inflammation or irritation from retrograde menstrual blood.
Endometriosis may be a congenital condition (existed from birth). During fetal development, uterine tissue may remain in the pelvis and grow as a result of hormonal influence.
There may also be a link between exposure to certain chemicals also known as Xenohormones and endometriosis. Research on rhesus monkeys shows a link between exposure to dioxin and endometriosis. The greater the exposure to dioxin, the more severe the endometriosis. Dioxin is a byproduct of pesticide (manufacturing and use) and bleached pulp and paper products manufacturing. The chemical can also be produced through burning of hazardous waste and can lead to Estrogen Dominance which increases the risks of developing endometriosis and once you have it making your symptoms worse.
Endometriosis is usually diagnosed on the basis of a history of pelvic pain, a physical examination, and a laparoscopy. Pelvic pain is symptomatic of many disorders, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ovarian cysts, and ectopic pregnancy. It is not definitive.
Laparoscopy is the most important diagnostic tool for endometriosis. Not all women require a laparascopy, however. Patients with mild or moderate symptoms often choose natural alternative treatment.
About 90% of women with pelvic pain have endometriosis. Pelvic pain that is typical of endometriosis includes menstrual cramps, low back pain that worsens during menstruation, and pain in the pelvis that occurs during or after sexual intercourse. Depending on where the implants are located, a woman may feel pain in her rectum during defecation.
A pelvic examination involves the physician feeling and looking for abnormalities that are associated with endometriosis. Physical findings depend on the severity and location of the condition. There may be palpable nodules or tenderness in the pelvic region, enlarged ovaries, a tipped-back (retrodisplaced or retroflexed) uterus, or lesions on the vagina or on surgical scars.
A laparoscopy is an exploratory procedure that permits the physician to see inside the pelvic region to observe endometrial growths. The procedure involves making a small incision near the navel and inserting a laparascope (long, thin, lighted instrument). Usually, the endometrial implants can easily be seen. Because endometrial implants vary in appearance and can be mistaken for other conditions, the lesions usually must be surgically removed and examined under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis. After laparoscopy, patients can usually resume normal activities in about a day.
Endometriosis is usually not a problem as long as a woman menstruates, but treatment can relieve the pain and restore fertility. Treatment depends on whether the primary goal is to relieve pain, restore fertility, or both.
Herbal medicine is the treatment of disease using medicinal plants, both internally and externally, to restore the patient back to health. It is a system of medicine that relies on the therapeutic qualities of plants to help the patient by enhancing the body’s own recuperative powers. It is a natural method of healing based on the traditional usage of herbs coupled with modern scientific developments.
Though there are those in the orthodox medical world who ignore herbal medicine, even condemn it, the constituents of herbs have provided the blueprint for many of the most effective and widely known drugs used today. ‘Orthodox’ medicine has its roots in herbal medicine.
Orthodox medicine is based on drugs isolated from plants, or more often manufactured in the laboratory. The herbalist advocates the use of the whole plant as a gentler and safer way to restoring a women to health.
For the treatment of Endometriosis, one of the first tasks in herbal medicine is to try and re-balance the hormone levels in the body. Then other herbs will be introduced to strengthen the immune system so that the body can then begin to eliminate the disease. As with other alternative treatments, using herbal medicine for Endometriosis will involve a time commitment to achieve success.
Frequently Asked Questions-Endometriosis
What is Endometriosis?
What are the symptoms of endometriosis
How would I know if I have endometriosis?
What causes endometriosis?
How common is endometriosis?
Is there any age group which is more prone to endometriosis?
Is endometriosis based on a genetic or familial factor?
Is it true that intercourse during the menstrual cycle increases the risk of endometriosis?
Why does endometriosis seem to be discussed more in recent years?
Is it true that endometriosis is more common in some races?
Is there a characteristic menstrual cycle of the woman who has endometriosis?
If I put off having children until my 30s or later, do I have a greater chance of getting endometriosis? Also, is there any truth to the belief that delayed childbirth can lead to endometriosis?
Do you see endometriosis after menopause?
Is endometriosis a disease of modern times?
Natural Alternatives for Endometriosis
Bioidentical Progesterone Cream (Progensa 20)
Since we know that estrogen initiates endometrial cell proliferation and the formation of blood vessels accumulation in the endometrium, the aim of treatment is to block this monthly estrogen stimulus to the aberrant endometrial islets. Bioidentical Progesterone stops further proliferation of endometrial cells.
Herbal Formula (ProSoothe)
ProSoothe is an all natural herbal formula that significantly improves uterine fibroids and pelvic pain/cramps, irritability, tension, mood swings, acne, headaches, breast pain, bloating and weight gain.
Also found in this synergistic herbal formula is dandelion and vitex,(chaste tree) that helps the body remove exogenous,(external excess estrogen)from hormone therapy or contaminated food,(xenosteroids).
With time the monthly pains gradually subside as monthly bleeding in these islets becomes less, and healing of the inflammatory sites occurs.
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil (EPO) contains gamma-linolenic acid which is an omega-6 fatty acid. Omega-6 fatty acids decrease inflammation which helps with aberrant endometrial islets which respond monthly to the hormonal changes and become inflamed and shed like normal menstrual tissue.