HOW A REPRODUCTIVE DISEASE RAVAGES THE BODY
Endometriosis is a disease in which tissue similar to the uterine lining (endometrium) is found outside the uterus and on other parts of the body. It is a painful reproductive disorder that affects an estimated 176 million individuals worldwide. While most understand the disease to be characterized by painful periods and infertility, many don’t know the pain and lesions associated with the disease can spread throughout the body. Furthermore, endometriosis has been found to trigger depression and anxiety in some individuals. Endometriosis often causes complications with menopause. It is crucial to know how to properly diagnose the disease and what procedures and/or medications are available to treat it.
According to the Seckin Endometriosis Center, endometriosis typically develops on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and bowels. It is also common for the disease to develop on the top of the vagina and in the peritoneal cavity between the rectum and the posterior wall of the uterus. However, in rare cases, endometriosis can spread to diaphragm, lungs, kidneys, appendix, and calf muscles. In even fewer cases, endometriosis may develop in the brain.
The cause of endometriosis is currently unknown, however, there are several factors that put people at risk of developing the disease. These factors include family history of the disease, being between the ages 25 and 40, history of menstruation complications (irregular or painful periods, heavy flow, etc.), not having children, and high consumption of red meat, fats and alcohol.
There are several common symptoms of endometriosis. Periods consisting of aches and pains that go beyond the usual abdominal cramping are a distinct marker of the disease. The pain from endometriosis typically does not respond to painkillers and birth control, and it can spread to parts of the body outside of the pelvis (such as the legs, chest and arms). Gastrointestinal (GI) abnormalities are also main symptoms of endometriosis. Bloating, gas and cramps, with or without diarrhea, and constipation tend to be more pronounced around the onset of the period. Painful sex and neuropathy (disruption of the nerves) are usual symptoms that inflict those with endometriosis. One of the most common markers of endometriosis is infertility. Other lesser symptoms include, but are not limited to, chronic or intermittent back or pelvic pain, spotting or bleeding between periods, painful bowel movements, urinary complications, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, and fatigue.
If experiencing these signs and symptoms, it is important to meet with a physician and rule out other pelvic disorders. Because endometriosis is such a misunderstood disease, an individual may wait an average of 7.5 years before seeking a diagnosis, according to TheFemedic.com. There are currently no blood tests that rule out or confirm endometriosis. Instead a pelvic exam, ultrasound, or laparoscopy is performed to determine the diagnosis.
While there is currently no cure, treatment for endometriosis ranges from medicinal pain management to surgery and hormone therapy. If surgery doesn’t work, some doctors suggest that their patients conceive a child in order to rectify the disorder. However, this is not a sure method of treatment as endometriosis can resurface or worsen after childbirth. In the most severe cases, some individuals opt for a hysterectomy to remove the diseased organs.
Left unchecked, endometriosis is debilitating. As the severity of endometriosis is better understood, it is important for patients to maintain their reproductive health – and overall health – through regular checkups and open dialogue with their doctors.