Endometriosis is a medical condition that is common among women. It is a disease of the endometrium which is the lining of the uterus or womb. Endometriosis develops when the tissue lining of the endometrium grows in other parts of the body aside from the uterus. These parts of the body may include the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the tissues surrounding the uterus, the outer surface of the uterus or the tissue lining of the pelvic cavity. The tissue of the endometrium can also grow in the cervix, vagina, vulva, bladder, bowel and rectum. Rarely, endometrial tissue may extend to the brain, the lungs and the skin.
Endometriosis can bring about symptoms such as lower abdominal or pelvic pain, low back pain during menstrual periods, menstrual cramps, pain during or after sex, painful bowel movements, spotting or bleeding in between menstrual periods, intestinal pain, painful urination, infertility, fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, nausea or bloating.
Women with endometriosis may have other health problems such as allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis, lupus, hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, infections, heart conditions, ovarian cancers, breast cancers, endocrine cancers, brain tumors, kidney cancers, thyroid cancers, colon cancers, melanomas and lymphomas. Endometriosis causes pain and other health problems even though they are benign. This is because they change with the woman's menstrual cycle. Every month, the lining of the endometrium builds up with tissue and blood vessels. If the woman does not become pregnant, the lining sheds off during menstruation.
Endometriosis may respond to hormones that are which are produced during the menstrual cycle. Endometriosis expands through the addition of blood and extra tissue. This further causes inflammation, scarring and blockage of fallopian tubes and other hollow organs. These further develop into cysts, adhesions or scars that cause pain in the pelvic area and infertility. Endometriosis usually affects women who are within the age range of 30s to 40s. They may stop for a time during pregnancy and menopause.
The exact cause of endometriosis is not known but there are some theories which say that it may be carried in the genes and inherited through families. Endometrial tissue may be found in the uterus and moved to the other parts of the body through the blood or the lymphatic system. Immune system disorders and certain cancers may also predispose one to have endometriosis. The hormone estrogen promotes the growth of endometriosis so that high estrogen states are known to promote it. Abdominal scarring can also cause endometriosis. Dioxin, a toxic chemical from pesticides and burning wastes can also predispose one to have endometriosis.
Risk factors of endometriosis include lack of children, menstrual periods that last for more than one week, shorter than normal menstrual cycles, a family history of endometriosis, obstruction in the reproductive system, and pelvic damage from infections. You can reduce your chances of having endometriosis by exercising regularly, eating low amounts of dietary fat, avoiding too much alcohol and avoiding too much caffeine in drinks.
Endometriosis is usually diagnosed by medical history, physical exam and the performance of tests. Pelvic exams may be done by the doctor to feel for cysts and scars in the uterus. Ultrasound may be done to see ovarian cysts which may be due to endometriosis. Magnetic resonance imaging may also be done to examine your pelvis. Laparoscopy may also be done to view the presence of endometriosis tissues and perform minor surgery. Growths may also be seen through this method.
New Insights in Endometriosis Development
Recent research throws insights on the development of endometriosis. Northwestern researchers suggest that endometriosis may be due to epigenetic modification, a process that enhances or disrupts how DNA is read, is an integral component of the disease and its progression. Other researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital have also identified a novel role for a family of key gene regulators in the uterus. The findings were recently published in PLoS Genetics. Now scientists are quite sure that endometriosis may be due to genetic factors.
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