Endometriosis: A Disease With Many Symptoms
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a painful and life altering medical condition affecting women, in which the type of cells that normally line the uterus (called the endometrium), grow outside of it. As these are the cells which are involved in menstruation, they will bleed following the same rhythm as a woman's menstrual cycle even if they are not located in the uterus, often leading to pain and other complications.
The symptoms and course of the disease will vary depending on where this abnormal growth occurs. In most cases, the these stray cells grow in the pelvic region, but they may even reach and affect distant organs such as the lungs.
Different Types of Endometriosis
There are many different kinds of endometriosis, classified by the area of the body which it affects:
- Endometriosis - the most common form, affecting the genital and pelvic region.
- Ovarian endometriosis - which affects the ovaries
- Peritoneal endometriosis - which affects the lining of the stomach
- Bladder endometriosis - which affects the bladder and urinary tract
- Digestive endometriosis - which affects the digestive system
- Parietal endometriosis - "parietal" means relating to a body cavity. In this case it means that the cells are abnormally present in a body cavity.
- Ureteral endometriosis - which affects the urethra
- Deep pelvic endometriosis - also called Deeply Infiltrative Endometriosis. because it is found deep within the tissue or organ.
- Umbilical endometriosis - a rare condition in which the abnormal cell growth occurs in the navel (belly button)
- Thoracic endometriosis - which affects the chest and lungs
All of these varieties of endometriosis have one thing in common: each month, the misplaced tissue will bleed, in conjunction with a woman's menstrual cycle. As this tissue is not located in its normal location, uterus, it causes problems including stagnating blood which can collect in cysts and nodules in the affected area, leading to a variety of symptoms.
Did you know? Endometriosis affects 6–10% of all women.
In about 80 percent of cases, the endometriosis affects exclusively the genital tract, namely the ovaries, Fallopian tubes and the tissue surrounding them.
Some women experience no symptoms or discomfort. However, the most common symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Painful, abundant and irregular periods
- A feeling of bloating and heaviness in the lower abdomen,
- Possible infertility
- Pains during intercourse.
- Pain with bowel movements or urination.
The nature of this condition is that it can affect many different areas and organs of the body, leading to a variety of different symptoms and health issues, in addition to the ones listed above, depending on the type of endometriosis.
It should be noted that all of these symptoms may be associated with other medical conditions. Only your doctor can determine whether you are suffering from endometriosis or something else.
Ovarian endometriosis results from the presence of endometrial tissue on the surface of the ovaries, in the form of cysts. These cysts can vary in size from a few millimeters to a several centimeters.
Symptoms of ovarian endometriosis include:
- severe pain and cramps during menstruation (Dysmenorrhea).
- urinary pain and bleeding between periods.
- infertility, due to tubal adhesion caused by cysts.
In peritoneal endometriosis, the lesions affect the peritoneum, the thin membrane lining the abdomen and pelvic cavity, as well as all of the organs that it contains. Most women who have endometriosis will have peritoneal endometriosis, regardless of what other regions of the body are affected.
This is a relatively rare condition, representing just 5% of endometriosis cases. In this case, the endometrial tissue grows on the inside of wall of the bladder, and usually also forms fibrous nodules which infiltrate the bladder, causing pain and other problems.
- severe pain in the area of the pelvis
- pain during urination
- a frequent urge to urinate
- blood in the urine each menstrual cycle.
Digestive endometriosis (also called bowel endometriosis) involves the formation of endometriosis nodules within the digestive tract and organs such as the rectum, colon, and intestine. In addition to the usual symptoms of endometriosis, this condition is marked by:
- bleeding from the anus.
This form of endometriosis is more common than ovarian endometriosis, but is still comparatively rare. Out of all cases of endometriosis, roughly 20 percent consist of digestive endometriosis.
Parietal endometriosis, also called cicatricial ("scar") endometriosis is a form of the disease which develops on scar tissue. It usually occurs after surgery such as a caesarean section, hysterectomy or other obstetrical procedure. The nodules are restricted to the scar tissue and are easily detected.
Ureteral endometriosis is a rare and often under-diagnosed cause of kidney failure.
In this form of the disease, endometrial tissue forms nodules in the small ducts (called the ureters) that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. These nodules can block these ducts and lead to kidney failure.
Deep pelvic endometriosis
Deep pelvic endometriosis is a very serious manifestation of the disease. It involves the penetration and infiltration of the abnormal tissue into the lining of the abdominal cavity, and the pelvic organs such as the Fallopian tubes, digestive organs (rectum, right colon, etc), parts of the vagina, and the bladder and the ureters linking the kidneys to the bladder.
In addition to the usual symptoms, sufferers may experience:
- pain during urination
- pain during defecation
- pain during intercourse
- problems with digestion
- uterine adenomyosis, in which the inner lining of the uterus (the endometrium) breaks through the muscle wall of the uterus which can cause menstrual cramps, lower abdominal pressure, and bloating before menstrual periods and can result in heavy periods
In this form of the disease, the sufferer develops lesions (nodules or cysts) at the site of the belly button. These lesions can be very painful and even bleed in conjunction with the woman's menstrual cycle.
In very rare cases, endometriosis can affect the lungs as well as the ear, nose and throat. When it affects the lungs, this condition can lead to coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, spitting blood during your period, and even lung collapse.
Treatments of Endometriosis
Treatments for endometriosis depend on the severity of symptoms, the location of the tissue, and other factors including the patient's desire to have children.
In some cases, the condition can be managed using exercise and diet modification, including limiting the consumption of alcohol. In more severe cases, pain killers or hormonal treatments to prevent menstruation, or even induce early menopause artificially, in order to prevent the activity of the endometrial tissue may be required.
In some cases, the only option may be surgery to remove the endometrial tissue or even parts of the affected organ.
All of these treatment options carry serious risks and should only be undertaken after careful consultation with a specialist.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Tanya Zerbini