Endometriosis

March is Endometriosis Month

Endometriosis is a female reproductive disorder that is often painful. It is a chronic disease that affects 5.5 million women and girls in the USA and Canada, and millions more worldwide. The tissue that lines a female’s uterus (the endometrium) becomes implanted outside the uterus on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bowel, bladder and tissue lining the pelvis. It is rare, but on occasion this tissue can spread even further within your body such as the lung, arm, thigh, and other locations.

Once a month hormones signal the thickened endometrial tissue to shed through the vagina if there is no pregnancy there to support. The endometrial tissue that is not in the uterus and attached to ovaries, fallopian tubes, etc. also bleed once a month. This blood has no where to exit the body. It becomes trapped and causes surrounding tissues to become irritated. It can cause the growth of cysts which in turn can cause scar tissue and adhesions – which is abnormal tissue that binds organs together. This scar tissue can cause fertility and bowel problems, and painful menstrual cycles.

Symptoms include: pain before and during periods, pain with intercourse, infertility, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation and nausea, heavy menstrual periods, or spotting and bleeding between periods, painful urination and bowel movements during periods. In addition, many women with endometriosis also suffer from allergies, chemical sensitivities and frequent yeast infections. There are many other medical problems that can also be associated with the above problems; and just because a woman suffers from the above, doesn’t mean she has endometriosis. But the only way to diagnose it is with laparoscopic surgery under anesthesia.

The cause is unknown. There are theories that retrograde menstruation or menstrual tissue flowing backwards into the fallopian tubes, implanting into the abdomen and growing may be the cause. Other theories include genetics, immune system problems, surgical transplantation and recent studies suggest exposure to dioxin (TCCD).

Treatment includes over the counter pain medication such as Aspirin, Tylenol, and ibuprofen. Other treatments include hormonal therapy such as birth control pills and other hormones. Surgery can also be an option that seeks to remove or destroy the growths and scar tissue. In some cases, radical surgery may be needed such as a total hysterectomy to remove all growths, the uterus, and ovaries. Endometriosis is a chronic disease and even with treatment, symptoms can recur.

For more information on endometriosis at

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UIS Campus Health Service (217)206-6676