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What is Endometriosis?

Mar 3rd, 2014

Normally, endometrial tissue lines the inside of the uterine cavity. This is the tissue a woman sheds every month with her menstrual cycle. When this tissue is found anywhere outside of its normal location, we call it endometriosis. This condition affects young, menstruating women.

Although the cause of endometriosis is not completely understood, it is likely related to a woman’s response to her own menstrual tissue. Every month when you menstruate, not all of the blood comes out through the vagina. Some of the blood backs up through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvis. Normally, your body absorbs this blood without any problems. For some reason, though, some women’s bodies are unable to absorb the blood properly. The body reacts to it, causing inflammation and pain. This can lead to collections of this blood, tissue, and inflammation into aggregates called endometriosis.

Endometriosis can form on the ovaries or tubes, on the outside of the uterus, on the surface of the intestines or bladder, and even rarely outside of the pelvis in the upper abdomen or chest cavity. Commonly, the implants form between the back of the uterus and the rectal wall. Ultimately, these areas turn to dense nodules and scarring, which can be very painful, especially during intercourse and bowel movements.

Endometriosis usually starts when an adolescent girl first begins menstruating. Over time, with each menstrual cycle, the symptoms worsen. Menstrual periods become a dreaded monthly battle that is painful and debilitating. If the scarring becomes severe, many women find intercourse painful or even unbearable. Chronic pelvic pain results, affecting work, daily activities, and relationships.

In addition, endometriosis is a major cause of infertility. The exact mechanism for this association is unknown, but women with the disorder often face a difficult dilemma. They have not been able to conceive, yet they have terrible pain with each cycle. Having a hysterectomy would likely eliminate the symptoms yet leave them unable to carry a child.

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