When a woman has endometriosis, the tissue that lines her uterus, called the endometrium, grows outside of the uterus. When this tissue grows outside of the uterus, it is often found in the pelvic cavity, usually in one or more of these places: on or under the ovaries, behind the uterus, on the tissues that hold the uterus in place, or on the bowels or bladder. In very rare cases, endometriosis areas can grow in the lungs or other parts of the body.
As the tissue grows, it can develop into growths, also called tumors or implants. These growths are usually benign (not cancerous) and rarely are associated with cancer. Growths can cause mild to severe pain, infertility (not being able to get pregnant), and heavy periods.
The endometriosis growths are affected by the monthly menstrual cycle. Each month, the lining of the uterus thickens to get ready for pregnancy. If a woman does not become pregnant, the lining of the uterus sheds and the woman bleeds. When a woman has endometriosis, the growths outside of the uterus also bleed during her period. But there is no way for the blood to leave her body, and inflammation and scar tissue can develop. Blockage or bleeding in the intestines and problems with bladder function may also occur.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
A common symptom of endometriosis is pain, mostly in the abdomen, lower back, and pelvic areas. The amount of pain a woman feels is not linked to how much endometriosis she has. Some women have no pain even though their disease affects large areas, or there is scarring. Some women, on the other hand, have severe pain even though they have only a few small areas of endometriosis.
General symptoms of endometriosis can include but are not limited to:
- Extremely painful or disabling menstrual cramps; pain may get worse over time
- Chronic pelvic pain includes lower back pain and pelvic pain.
- Pain during or after sex.
- Intestinal pain.
- Painful bowel movements or painful urination during menstrual periods.
- Heavy menstrual periods.
- Premenstrual spotting or bleeding between periods.
- Infertility not being able to get pregnant.
- Women who have endometriosis may have gastrointestinal symptoms that are like those of a bowel disorder, as well as fatigue.
Cause of Endometriosis
No one knows for sure what causes this disease. One theory is that during menstruation some of the menstrual tissue backs up through the fallopian tubes into the abdomen, where it implants and grows. Another theory suggests that endometriosis may be genetic, or runs in families.
Researchers also are looking at the role of the immune system and how it either stimulates or reacts to endometriosis. It may be that a woman's immune system does not remove the menstrual fluid in the pelvic cavity properly, or the chemicals made by areas of endometriosis may irritate or promote growth of more areas. Results from a recent study showed that women who have the disease are more likely than other women to have immune system disorders in which the body attacks its own tissues. This study also found that women with endometriosis are more likely to have chronic fatigue syndrome and to suffer from fibromyalgia syndrome-a disease involving pain in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These women also are more likely to have asthma, allergies, and the skin condition eczema. So, researchers feel that further study of the immune system in endometriosis may give important clues to finding the causes of and treatment for the disease.
Other researchers are looking into endometriosis as a disease of the endocrine system, the body's system of glands, hormones, and other secretions, since estrogen appears to promote the growth of the disease. Other research is looking at whether environmental agents, such as exposure to man-made chemicals, cause the disease. More research is trying to understand what, if any, factors affect the course of the disease.
Another important area of research is the search for endometriosis markers. These markers are substances in the body made by or in response to the disease, and can be measured in the blood or urine. If markers are found by a blood or urine test, then a diagnosis for endometriosis could be made without surgery.
Endometriosis Based on a Genetic or Familial Factors
Several studies have shown that the incidence of endometriosis is much higher in women having a sister or mother who has already had endometriosis. There was a study conducted involving more than 150 women with endometriosis; of these, 18 (12 percent) were found to have a mother or sister with endometriosis. However, in the same group of women, only two (1.5 percent) showed that they had a mother-in-law or sister-in-law who had endometriosis. This clearly shows that there is a familial tendency with endometriosis. As one can see from these figures, there is almost an eight-fold increase in the risk of endometriosis in women whose mother or sister has been diagnosed as having the disease.
Equally important was the finding that endometriosis on a familial basis tended to be at a more advanced stage when diagnosed and also that it acts more aggressively. It has been suggested that endometriosis might result from an inheritable immunodeficiency state.
Is there a characteristic menstrual cycle of the woman who has endometriosis?
Many studies have shown that women with endometriosis begin their menstrual cycle at a significantly younger age than women without the condition. Endometriosis is more prevalent in women who have a regular cycle than in women who have an irregular cycle. Another interesting characteristic is that patients with endometriosis have a shorter interval between their periods (less than 27 days). Severe menstrual cramps are also seen much more frequently in endometriosis.
It has been shown that the chance of having endometriosis is four times greater in patients with severe menstrual cramps as compared to women with mild menstrual cramps. Another point is that patients with a prolonged menstrual flow are apt to have endometriosis. It has also been found that if the menstrual flow is longer than a week, the risk of developing endometriosis is 2.5 times greater than in women who have a menstrual flow lasting less than a week.
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 and improve endometriosis.
Herbal Formula (ProSoothe)
ProSoothe is an all natural herbal formula that significantly improves Endometriosis, 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, endometriosis has been found to improve when using. 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.