Endometriosis is a currently non-curable autoimmune illness that women are born with, which affects the lining of the uterus (the endometrium). Doctors do not know what causes endometriosis – there may be several causes. The most frequently talked about causes of endometriosis are the retrograde menstruation theory, surgical transplantation of the disease, and pesticides such as dioxin (Read more about these theories at the Endometriosis Association and National Institute of Health websites).
Pieces of the endometrium end up outside of the uterus, and are found on surrounding organs, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, intestines, pancreas, bladder, and anywhere in the abdominal cavity.
At onset of menstruation, these pieces of endometrium receive the same hormonal signal that the lining of the uterus does – and these pieces begin to break down and bleed like the lining of the uterus does.
This in turn sets off the alarm (read: pain receptors) on the surfaces to which these rogue pieces of endometrial lining are attached, and widespread inflammation, as well as an immune response, is triggered.
This often leaves a young girl or woman in pain so serious that she can vomit, pass out, and/or require a trip to the hospital. Interestingly enough, some women with endometriosis do not experience debilitating pain.
The symptoms of endometriosis vary from woman to woman, but often include the following:
- Chronic pelvic pain, often extending to the lower back
- Heavy menstrual cycles
- Mittelschmerz (mid-cycle pain and/or bleeding)
- Pain during intercourse
- Moderate to severe fatigue
- Painful urination or bladder complications during menstruation
- Painful bowel movements during menstruation
- Rectal bleeding before and/or during menstruation
- Diarrhea, constipation or nausea during menstruation
- Frequent Urinary Tract Infections and/or yeast infections
- Low-grade fever
- Migraine headaches
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)-like symptoms
- Joint pain
- Feeling out of breath or easily winded
Stats are still sketchy as to how many women suffer with endometriosis:
- “6.3 million women and girls in the U.S., 1 million in Canada, and millions more worldwide”. – Endometriosis Association
- “Current estimates place the number of women with endometriosis between 2 percent and 10 percent of women of reproductive age. But, it’s important to note that these are only estimates, and that such statistics can vary widely”. – National Institutes of Health
- “Endometriosis is a chronic disease of a woman’s or teenage girl’s reproductive and immune systems found in 2-4% of the general female population worldwide”. -Endo Magazine
- “Endometriosis is a very common condition affecting up to 10 per cent of women between 16 and 50 years of age, often without producing any symptoms”. -Net Doctor
- “Endometriosis is typically seen during the reproductive years; it has been estimated that it occurs in roughly 5% to 10% of women”. – Wikipedia, citing October 15, 1999 American Academy of Family Physicians information.
- “Endometriosis is estimated to affect over one million women (estimates range from 3% to 18% of women) in the United States”. -Medicine Net
Treatment of endometriosis can include pain medication, surgery, hormonal treatment, and alternative medicine, but it must be noted that the only definitive diagnosis of endometriosis is firstly made via laparoscopy.
- What is endometriosis?, from The Endometriosis Association
- Here’s what we do know about endometriosis, from the National Institutes of Health
- Living with Endometriosis, from Endo Magazine
- What is endometriosis?, from Net Doctor
- Wikipedia definition of endo
- What is endometriosis?, from Medicine Net
- Endometriosis F.A.Q., from Women Living Naturally
- Myths About Endometriosis