Thanks to one of my readers for recently asking: what is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a gynecological disorder characterized by the abnormal growth of cells that are similar to those from the interior walls of the uterus. Endometriosis implants occur when endometrial cells, those that are shed every month during menstruation, attach to tissue outside of the uterus. These implants are commonly found in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, outer surface of the uterus, and the intestine. Endometrial implants may cause a problem, but are usually benign.

In the United States, three to 18 percent of women (equally among American, African and Asian women) are diagnosed with the endometriosis. It is one of the leading causes of pelvic pain, and the most common reason for hysterectomy and laparoscopic surgery. Endometriosis often manifests when a woman reaches her reproductive years, but is most common in women aged 25 to 35. The youngest person to be reported with endometriosis was an 11-year old girl.

What causes endometriosis
The cause of endometriosis is unknown, but there is a theory that endometrial tissue deposited in an unusual location – which happens when menstrual flow is backed up in the fallopian tubes and pelvic cavity – causes endometriosis. Other theories include:

  • Retrograde menstruation– Backflow of menstrual fluid into the pelvic cavity.
  • Transplantation Theory– Endometriosis spreads through the lymphatic and circulatory system.
  • Coelomic Metaplasia– When endometrial cells are stimulated, they transform themselves in a different kind of cells. This is common among women taking estrogen replacement therapy.
  • Latrogenic Transplantation– Endometriosis may be acquired through accidental incidences during surgery.
  • Environmental factors– Several researches show that environmental toxins are at much greater risk of developing endometriosis. These toxins may include PCBs, DDT, and Dioxin.
  • Liver Disorders– Liver regulates and removes estrogen from the body. If the function of the liver is impaired, serious health problems may occur, including endometriosis.
  • Auto Immune Disorder

What are the symptoms of endometriosis?

  • Unbearable menstrual cramps
  • Chronic pain
  • Pain during or after sex
  • Intestinal pain
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Bleeding and spotting between menstrual periods
  • Infertility
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • You’ve never given birth.
  • Your menstrual periods last more than seven days.
  • You have a short menstrual cycle (27 days or less).
  • A family member has endometriosis
  • You have health problem that prevent normal passage of menstrual blood flow.
  • There is damage to cells in your pelvis due to infection.

Treatment and prevention
Since there is no clear evidence about the real cause of endometriosis, treatment and prevention of such health condition is also vague. To date, there are two main forms of treatments for endometriosis: surgery (laparoscopic surgery) and drug therapy.

The kind of treatment you will receive depends on:

  • the severity of your symptoms
  • the location and size of endometrial growth
  • your plans to have children
  • your age

There are a few ways to reduce your risk of developing endometriosis:

  • Pregnancy at an early age. Of course, you shouldn’t have children if you’re not ready, but studies show pregnancy lowers the incidences and severity of endometriosis.
  • Taking oral contraceptives or birth control pills.
  • Avoiding stress.
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a healthy diet. Eat healthy foods and exercise regularly.