Endometriosis is the growth of endometrial tissue, the cells normally found lining the uterus (womb), in other areas of the body like peritoneum (the lining of abdominal cavity), back of the uterus, vagina, fallopian tubes, ovary and sometimes even lungs and brain. The cause is not known.
Endometriosis is pretty common and often runs in families – a woman with a sister or mother with endometriosis is at greater risk of developing endometriosis than others. The main symptoms are pain (typically pelvic), irregular menstrual periods and subfertility or infertility.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
It is to be noted that sometimes there may be no symptoms at all even in women with advanced endometriosis and some women with even mild disease can have severe symptoms. Symptoms, when they do occur, are often greater during the monthly periods. Symptoms may depend on where the endometriosis has occurred, but pain is a common symptom.
Pain is usually the main symptom in endometriosis. Pain is usually in the pelvis. It is poorly correlated with the severity or extent of the disease. The causes of pain can be inflammation, tissue damage, adhesions, thickening due to fibrosis of tissue and collection of menstrual blood in implanted endometrial tissue.
The intensity of pain can vary with time. The pain can become progressively worse in some women, whereas in others it may resolve even without treatment.
Painful menses (periods)
Pain can occur during menstrual period (dysmenorrhea), starting just before or during the menstruation and continuing throughout the menstrual period or lessening after menstruation. Painful menses suggests endometriosis especially when it begins after years of painless menses.
The pain is often bilateral (on both sides). It may worsen with time. The pain can also occur in the lower back or around rectum. Dull or severe cramps can also occur before and even during menstruation.
Chronic pelvic pain
Chronic pelvic pain can occur, with the site of pain depending on the location of the implanted endometrial tissue. It can be associated with abdominal or lower back pain. Sometimes the pain can occur even in the legs, which can be throbbing and dragging.
Pain with sexual intercourse
Pain can occur during sex (dyspareunia). Sometimes pain can occur after sexual intercourse.
The frequency and urgency of urination can be increased. There can be pain during the passing of urine (dysuria). There could be passage of blood in urine (hematuria).
There can be constipation or diarrhea. Pain can occur during defecation (bowel movements).
Subfertility or Infertility
There can be subfertility (reduced fertility or ability to become pregnant) or infertility (inability to become pregnant). The cause may be anatomical, like distortion of fallopian tubes (involved in transportation of eggs from ovaries to the uterus) due to scarring.
It could also be due to hormones produced by the endometrial tissue that affect the release of egg, fertilization of egg or implantation of fertilized egg.
Abnormal Menstrual Bleeding
The menstrual bleeding can be excessive or prolonged (menorrhagia). Sometimes there can be irregular menstrual bleeding associated with endometriosis. When abnormal menstrual bleeding occurs it needs to be taken seriously because the cause can be more serious like cancer.
Coughing up of blood (hemoptysis) or chest pain can occur if the endometriosis involves the lungs. In endometriosis of brain there can be headache and seizures.
Photo Credit: http://www.drugs.com/health-guide/female-infertility.html