Endometriosis: Signs Symptoms and Treatment
- Publish Date: 2009/02/08 - (Rev. 2017/11/06)
- Author: Carol Gable
Outline: Information on Endometriosis a female health condition resulting in pelvic pain often due to an under-active thyroid gland.
For many women, a general feeling that something isn't right accompanied by pelvic pain, painful intercourse, or other related symptoms prompts them to enlist the aid of a gynecologist for a diagnosis.
Endometriosis (en-doe-me-tree-O-sis) is an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus, the endometrium, grows outside your uterus (Endometrial implant). Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, bowel or the tissue lining your pelvis. Rarely, Endometrial tissue may spread beyond your pelvic region. Endometriosis can cause pain, sometimes severe, especially during your period. The pain can range from mild to severe cramping or stabbing pain that occurs on both sides of the pelvis, in the lower back and rectal area, and even down the legs. Fertility problems also may develop.
Endometriosis is often the culprit. Affecting millions of Americans each year, this disease can be bothersome in milder cases, but it can actually be debilitating in other cases. For some women it means pain and discomfort. For others, it means infertility.
Unfortunately, doctors don't know the reason for the disease.
There are many theories, but none of them have been absolutely proven. What research has unraveled, however, is a strong relation between endometriosis and thyroid condition. In fact, some studies show that 40% of women suffering from endometriosis suffer from under-active thyroid.
Underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism is a condition that is often diagnosed.
If you suffer from endometriosis, it would also be a good idea to get tested for this disorder. There are various warning signs that may serve as a signal that you suffer from hypothyroidism. The most common ones include depression, weight gain, fatigue, high cholesterol, hair loss, feeling cold, low libido, tingling in the hands and feet, and infertility.
Infertility is both a side effect of hypothyroidism and endometriosis.
In the case of endometriosis it occurs because of cells that lodge themselves outside of the uterus. These are the same type of cells that build up inside of the uterus and are shed each month during menstruation. When a woman develops endometriosis, however, the cells accumulate outside of the uterus. When a woman menstruates, the cells don't shed and they continue to build up. This can lead to scar tissue and adhesions. Often, the fallopian tubes are blocked, preventing a woman from conceiving.
Hypothyroidism Also Affects Fertility
Not only are your hormones unbalanced, a woman suffering from hypothyroidism often doesn't experience ovulation. Without ovulation, there is no egg for the sperm to fertilize. With no egg to be fertilized, conception is impossible. If you are not sure if you are ovulating, you can buy inexpensive ovulation kits at your local pharmacy or many supermarkets. In a matter of minutes, you can find out if your body is ovulating as it should be.
As research continues, experts continue to explore links between hypothyroidism and endometriosis. Doctors are also hopeful for a definitive cure for endometriosis, a disease that affects the lives of so many women.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
Pelvic pain is the most common symptom associated with endometriosis. Many women associate this pain with their period but do not realize that it is caused by endometriosis. In fact, some women with endometriosis experience little to no pain while others experience severe pain.
The other interesting thing about endometriosis is that the amount of Endometrial tissue growing in the abdomen has little bearing on the amount of pain a woman may experience. It has been found that women with large amounts of endometriosis in their abdomen may have few symptoms and those with a small amount of Endometrial tissue suffer from severe pain.
Even though many women experience the symptoms of endometriosis during their time of menstruation many others suffer from the constant pain and discomfort no matter what time of the month it is.
Many Women also Experience Pain During or After Sex
This pain can get to the point where these women quit having sex and in some cases the pain can be so great that it becomes impossible for these women to have intercourse.
Dysmenorrhea Painful Menstrual Periods is another symptom of endometriosis where the women experiences deep pain in the lower abdomen and vagina. This does not affect all women with endometriosis though.
Because the Endometrial tissue can become attached to non-reproductive organs such as the large intestine or bladder abdominal swelling can occur. These women can also experience painful bowel movements, painful urination, bleeding from the rectum and nausea or vomiting before their period begins.
Fatigue: A Major Symptom of Endometriosis
The constant pain and discomfort combined with the bodies fight to rid itself of the trapped menstrual fluid does cause extreme exhaustion. As the Endometrial tissue grows and expands in the abdominal cavity it causes greater and greater fatigue. Women who suffer from endometriosis also run a greater chance of getting chronic fatigue syndrome.
If you suffer from any of these endometriosis symptoms or think you may have endometriosis it is important that you schedule an appointment with your gynecologist.
Although no cure exists, one should not despair of an endometriosis treatment. In fact, there are several treatment options available to sufferers of this malady. These treatments run the gamut from simple observation to surgery.
If the case is particularly mild, one endometriosis treatment involves nothing more than simply engaging in regular visits to the physician. The doctor, either a general practitioner or a gynecologist, will monitor the patient. If the pain the patient is experiencing is severe enough certain medications may be prescribed, such as ibuprofen. As the symptoms progress further - and in some cases there may be no furthering of symptoms at all - it may become necessary to discuss the possibility of more complex treatments.
One of these endometriosis treatments that go beyond mere observation is hormone treatment. Hormone therapy is utilized because it has been effective in managing certain symptoms. The hormone estrogen thickens the uterine lining, while the hormone progesterone prompts the shedding of the uterine lining during menstruation.
One treatment involves Danazol, which is a form of testosterone that works to lessen the estrogen amounts that the ovaries produce down to roughly the same level that takes place during menopause. Minus the higher amount of estrogen, the Endometrial cells shrink and, eventually, disappear during the hormone treatment. Unfortunately, Danazol comes with a host of side effects: mood swings, facial and body hair growth, increases in muscle size and the clitoris, a reduction in breast size, weight gain, bloating. In some cases it can even cause more severe problems such as depression and liver disease.
A synthetic hormone known as Gestrinone can also be used in treatment, as can Dydrogesterone, which is a synthetic version of progesterone. Side effects of these hormones are similar to that of Danazol.
Another method of hormone treatment is that old standby, the contraceptive pill. The oral contraceptive is often prescribed for women who are suffering mild case of endometriosis in order to stop it from progressing further. Sometimes it used by woman who have had surgery in order to stop it from recurring.
When it comes to surgery as an endometriosis treatment, there are basically two choices. The first is something called an operative laparoscopy. In this procedure a tube gets inserted into the abdomen and the Endometrial implants are removed. A more drastic surgical treatment is a hysterectomy, in which the uterus as actually removed along with the Endometrial implants. Sometimes the fallopian tubes and ovaries are also removed. A hysterectomy isn't always successful in stopping the endometriosis, however.
No endometriosis treatment should be considered a cure. While many women do benefit to varying degrees from one or all of these treatments, none by itself or in combination with another can be considered a route to complete freedom from endometriosis. One rumor you may hear is that endometriosis can be cured by becoming pregnant. While it's true that some women improve after pregnancy, it's also true that other women suffer a worsening of the disease.
Pregnancy should not be considered an endometriosis treatment!
It is important for endometriosis suffers to consider the possibility of other related disorders such as hypothyroidism. It doesn't hurt to talk with your doctor about the possibility of your having this disorder, taking a test, and finding out whether you do in fact have an improperly functioning thyroid.
With so many treatment options available for both endometriosis and hypothyroid disease, it is important to receive the proper diagnoses that will you to work in conjunction with your doctor to follow the best course of treatment possible.
- Endometriosis was first discovered microscopically by Karl von Rokitansky in 1860. However, this disease has likely affected women for thousands of years, with documentation in medical texts more than 4,000 years ago.
- Historically, the symptoms of inexplicable chronic pelvic pain have often been attributed to imagined madness, female weakness, promiscuity, or hysteria.
- Several studies have investigated the potential link between exposure to dioxins and endometriosis, but the evidence is equivocal and potential mechanisms are poorly understood.
- Genetic predisposition plays a role in endometriosis. Daughters or sisters of women with endometriosis are at higher risk of developing endometriosis themselves; low progesterone levels may be genetic, and may contribute to a hormone imbalance. There is an about 6-fold increased incidence in women with an affected first-degree relative.
- Vaginal childbirth decreases recurrence of endometriosis. In contrast, endometriosis recurrence rates have been shown to be higher in women who have not given birth vaginally, such as in Cesarean section.
Endometriosis is typically diagnosed during the reproductive years, but has been diagnosed in girls as young as 8 and has been found to continue past menopause; it has been estimated that endometriosis occurs in roughly 4-10% of women.
Endometriosis can affect any female, from pre-menarche to post-menopause, regardless of race or ethnicity or whether or not they have had children. It is primarily a disease of the reproductive years. Its prevalence varies, but 6 to 10% is a reasonable number, more common in women with infertility and chronic pelvic pain (35 to 50%). As an estrogen-dependent process, it can persist beyond menopause and persists in up to 40% of women following hysterectomy.