Endometriosis pain is very real for many of the over 5.5 million North American women who suffer from this disease. An interesting fact about endometriosis is that the amount of endometrial cells living outside a woman’s uterus has little bearing on how much pain she may have. Women with extensive adhesions may experience very little pain while women with few endometrial adhesions may suffer severe pain. |
But just what is endometriosis and why does it cause such painful symptoms?
Endometriosis is a disease caused by endometrial cells that have found their way into a woman’s abdominal cavity. These cells come from the endometrium which is the lining of the uterus. The endometrium’s primary function is to provide a nutrient rich bed for a fertilized egg to embed in the uterine wall.
Every month this endometrial wall builds up with blood and other nutrient rich tissue. If a fertilized egg implants a pregnancy begins, if not then the endometrium sloughs off the uterine wall and flows out of the uterus and vagina during a woman’s period.
In some women this endometrial tissue has found its way into the abdominal cavity and in rarer cases other parts of their body. These cells implant on reproductive and other organs found in the abdomen. They can be found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the back of the uterus, and the intestines and bladder. In rare cases endometriosis can also show on the lungs, skin and other areas of the body.
The question many women have is why do these growths cause endometriosis pain in the first place?
The answer, for the most part, lies in the woman’s monthly menstrual cycle because most women experience the most severe pain just before and during their period. The reason for this is that the endometrial cells living outside a woman’s uterus respond to her monthly hormonal cycle the same as the endometrium lining the uterus.
The endometrial cells become engorged with blood and other nutritive tissue but as a woman’s period begins they too begin to shed, but in the case of endometriosis the blood and tissue remains inside the abdominal cavity. Endometrial tissues also release chemicals that can be irritating to abdominal organs and in some cases cause pain.
This process repeats itself every month causing the endometrial growths to grow into nodules on the abdominal organs. They can also turn into fluid filled sacs known as cysts when implanted on the ovaries. These cysts can break, causing pain and fluid release into the lower pelvic region. These nodules, cysts and chemicals can also produce scarring on the pelvic organs and in severe cases the scar tissue can bind the organs together. The abdominal organs are free floating and when they become attached to one another with scar tissue there is real discomfort and pain, particularly with any body movement.
The most common endometriosis pain is in the abdomen, lower back, and pelvic region. Again, the amount of pain suffered is not indicative of the amount of endometrial growths present in a woman’s body. The more specific symptoms of endometriosis include but are not always limited too:
• Menstrual cramps that are extremely painful. This menstrual pain may worsen as the disease progresses. • Chronic pain in the pelvic and lower back region • Painful sex or pain after sex • Intestinal pain that may be accompanied by painful bowel movements or urination, particularly during a woman’s period. • Heavier than normal menstrual periods • Spotting or bleeding between menstrual periods • Fatigue
Another endometriosis symptom that many women fail to recognize is depression. The fatigue, pain, bloating, and cramping has a negative effect on a woman’s sense of well-being which can turn into depression. They can also experience a level of helplessness as they try to find a treatment that works for them. In the case of hormonal treatment the drugs being used can also trigger feeling of depression.
Many women fail to realize that the symptoms of endometriosis pain they are experiencing are indeed caused by endometrial cells living outside their uterus. In many cases they just attribute it to their monthly menstrual period. Recognizing that these painful symptoms are caused by something more than their changing hormone cycle is the first step to getting properly diagnosed.
Any woman suffering from endometriosis pain should see her gynecologist. By discussing the symptoms with her doctor a preliminary diagnosis can be made. Unfortunately a definitive diagnosis can only be made through a laparoscopic procedure in which the doctor inserts a probe like instrument through a small incision in her stomach. This laparoscope has a small light and camera on the end and allows the doctor to look directly at the internal organs and spot any endometrial growths visually. In some cases an MRI of ultrasound can also help make a more definitive diagnosis.
The first step to dealing with endometriosis pain is a visit to the doctor. There are treatments available to manage the symptoms this disease causes and help end much of the suffering it brings.
Dealing with the pain of endometriosis is a daily struggle for many women. To learn more about this disease, what causes it, and how it can be treated please visit our website by clicking here.
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