Endometriosis: Clinical Presentation, Causes, and Treatment
Endometriosis is a common disease that affects women of all ages. The primary defect of this condition is the overgrowth of the tissue that lines to the inner wall of the uterus to expand beyond the uterine cavity.
The most common area where the endometrial tissue grows is around the ovaries, bowels, and pelvis.
Once the tissue deposits outside of the uterus, it can cause severe pain, local irritation, scarring, and fertility problems.
According to research, endometriosis affects up to 10% of all women, which is very significant.
In this article, we will briefly discuss the signs and symptoms, causes, and potential treatment options of endometriosis.
What are the signs and symptoms of endometriosis?
The frequency and severity of endometriosis symptoms vary, depending on numerous factors.
Some women experience mild to no symptoms at all, while others go through severe flareups.
Interestingly, the severity of the pain caused by endometriosis does not correlate with the extension or degree of the condition. In other words, you can have mild tissue deposition outside the uterus but experience excruciating pain, while another patient may have large extrauterine depositions with little to no pain.
Aside from pain, you can also experience the following signs and symptoms:
- Dysmenorrhea (i.e., painful periods)
- Cramping before menstruation
- Menorrhagia (i.e., heavy bleeding during period)
- Dyspareunia (i.e., pain during sexual intercourse)
- Low back pain
For some women with endometriosis, there might not be any symptoms at all. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain regular checkups with your gynecologist to monitor any changes.
The causes of endometriosis
At the end of each menstrual cycle, the body gets rid of the superficial lining of the uterus that formed to prepare for conception. As a result, menstrual blood flows from the uterus to the vagina via a small opening known as the cervix.
One of the theories that aim to explain the pathogenesis of endometriosis states that the process explained above occurs in the wrong direction.
This is referred to as retrograde menstruation, where the blood returns to the fallopian tubes and ovaries instead of coming out of the vagina.
Another group of experts believes that endometriosis is the result of cellular metaplasia, which refers to the transformation of cells outside the uterus into cells that resemble the ones in the uterine lining.
Aside from these two theories, there are several others that explain how endometriosis occurs. However, we still don’t have a consensus in the scientific community.
The treatment options for endometriosis
The treatment of endometriosis is a multistep process that consists of trying lifestyle modifications, medications, and surgical procedures.
Here’s a list of the potential therapies that could help patients with endometriosis:
- Painkillers (e.g., acetaminophen, opioids)
- Hormone therapy (e.g. estrogen, progesterone)
- Oral contraceptive drugs
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists and antagonists
- Conservative surgery
- Hysterectomy (i.e., removal of the uterus)
Endometriosis is an extremely common condition that affects millions of women every year. We hope that this article managed to introduce this condition is a simple and fun way.