Endometriosis is defined as the presence of endometrial tissue at any area other than the normal situation; if it is seen in myometrial tissue it leads to a condition called as adenomyosis.
Endometriosis commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining of pelvis. Rarely, endometrial tissue may spread beyond pelvic organs like intestines,liver and retroperitoneal spaces.
With endometriosis, displaced endometrial tissue continues to act as it normal tissue , it thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. Because this displaced tissue has no way to exit your body, it becomes trapped and bleeds monthly. When endometriosis involves the ovaries, cysts called endometriomas or chocolate cysts may form. Surrounding tissue can become irritated, eventually developing scar tissue and adhesions ,abnormal bands of fibrous tissue that can cause pelvic tissues and organs to stick to each other.
Endometriosis can cause pain , sometimes severe —,especially during periods. Fertility problems also may develop in younger females. Fortunately, effective treatments are available for both.
The primary symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain associated with menstrual period.
Common signs and symptoms of endometriosis may include:
- Painful periods (dysmenorrhea).Pelvic pain and cramping may begin before period and extend several days into the period.
- Pain with intercourse.Pain during or after sex is common with endometriosis.
- Pain with bowel movements or urination. most likely to experience these symptoms during
- Excessive bleeding. occasional heavy periods (menorrhagia) or bleeding between periods (menometrorrhagia).
- Endometriosis is first diagnosed in women who are seeking treatment for infertility.
- Other symptoms. may also experience fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating or nausea, especially during the menstrual periods.
The severity of pain isn’t necessarily a reliable indicator of the extent of the condition. Women with mild endometriosis have intense pain, while others with advanced endometriosis may have little pain or even no pain at all.
Endometriosis is sometimes mistaken for other conditions that can cause pelvic pain, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or ovarian cysts or appendicitis. It may be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that causes alternate bouts of diarrhea, constipation and abdominal cramping.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you have signs and symptoms that may indicate endometriosis.
Endometriosis can be a challenging condition to manage. An early diagnosis, a multidisciplinary medical team and an understanding of your diagnosis may result in better management of your symptoms.
Although the exact cause of endometriosis is not certain, possible explanations include:
- Retrograde menstruation.In retrograde menstruation, menstrual blood containing endometrial cells flows back through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity instead of out of the body. These displaced endometrial cells stick to the pelvic walls and surfaces of pelvic organs, where they grow and continue to thicken and bleed over the course of each menstrual cycle.
- Transformation of peritoneal cells.In what’s known as the “induction theory,” experts propose that hormones or immune factors promote transformation of peritoneal cells — cells that line the inner side of your abdomen — into endometrial cells.
- Embryonic cell transformation.Hormones such as estrogen may transform embryonic cells — cells in the earliest stages of development — into endometrial cell implants during puberty.
- Surgical scar implantation.After a surgery, such as a hysterectomy or C-section, endometrial cells may attach to a surgical incision.
- Endometrial cells transport.The blood vessels or tissue fluid (lymphatic) system may transport endometrial cells to other parts of the body.
- Immune system disorder.It’s possible that a problem with the immune system may make the body unable to recognize and destroy endometrial tissue that’s growing outside the uterus.
Several factors place you at greater risk of developing endometriosis, such as:
- Never giving birth
- Starting your period at an early age
- Going through menopause at an older age
- Short menstrual cycles — for instance, less than 27 days
- Having higher levels of estrogen in your body or a greater lifetime exposure to estrogen your body produces
- Low body mass index
- Alcohol consumption
- One or more relatives (mother, aunt or sister) with endometriosis
- Any medical condition that prevents the normal passage of menstrual flow out of the body
- Uterine abnormalities
Endometriosis usually develops several years after the onset of menstruation (menarche). Signs and symptoms of endometriosis end temporarily with pregnancy and end permanently with menopause, unless you’re taking estrogen.
Fertilization and implantation
The main complication of endometriosis is impaired fertility. Approximately one-third to one-half of women with endometriosis have difficulty getting pregnant.
For pregnancy to occur, an egg must be released from an ovary, travel through the neighboring fallopian tube, become fertilized by a sperm cell and attach itself to the uterine wall to begin development. Endometriosis may obstruct the tube and keep the egg and sperm from uniting. But the condition also seems to affect fertility in less-direct ways, such as damage to the sperm or egg.
Even so, many women with mild to moderate endometriosis can still conceive and carry a pregnancy to term. Doctors sometimes advise women with endometriosis not to delay having children because the condition may worsen with time.
Ovarian cancer does occur at higher than expected rates in women with endometriosis. But the overall lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is low to begin with. Some studies suggest that endometriosis increases that risk, but it’s still relatively low. Although rare, another type of cancer — endometriosis-associated adenocarcinoma — can develop later in life in women who have had endometriosis.