Growing into womanhood, even during the lessons on periods and menstrual cycles, women are told that they should expect pain and cramps. When you get painful periods and cramps, It is thus a struggle to know if you are just cramping or there is an underlying issue. Over the recent times, however, there have been cases of endometriosis being discussed in public forums opening up the possibility of more women paying close attention to their bodies.
Endometriosis is an often painful disorder in which the tissue which normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. Though it mostly affects ovaries, fallopian tubes and the lining on the pelvis, it may spread beyond pelvic organs. The displaced tissue continues to act as it would if it were in the uterus; it thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. The tissue located in different areas of your body lacks a means by which it can be shed, thus endometriosis may cause pain, severe pain. It may also result in infertility issues.
There are 4 stages of endometriosis, though the stage is not related to symptoms. The stages are; minimal, mild, moderate and severe. The stages are based on the location, extent and depth, presence and severity of scar tissue and the presence and size of endometrial implants in the ovaries. Moderate and severe usually result in cysts. Though there are symptoms that point to endometriosis, some women do not experience them. It is thus important to have regular checkups with your gynaecologist.
Pain on the lower back or tummy which is usually worse during one’s period.
Excessive period pain that hinders you from performing your daily activities.
Pain during or after sex
Pain when passing urine during your period.
Excessively heavy periods.
Though the cause of endometriosis had not been clearly pointed out, there are several speculations that have been made. A history in the family may increase the possibility of getting endometriosis. Some of the possible causes are;
Retrograde menstruation. Menstrual blood containing endometrial cells flows back through the fallopian tubes instead of out of the body. These displaced endometrial cells stick to walls and surfaces where they grow and continue to thicken and bleed over the course of each menstrual cycle.
Transformation of peritoneal cells. In what’s known as the “induction theory,” experts propose that hormones or immune factors promote the transformation of peritoneal cells — cells that line the inner side of your abdomen — into endometrial cells.
Embryonic cell transformation. Hormones such as estrogen may transform embryonic cells into endometrial cell implants during puberty.
Surgical scar implantation. After a surgery, such as a hysterectomy or C-section, endometrial cells may attach to a surgical incision.
Endometrial cells transport. The blood vessels or tissue fluid system may transport endometrial cells to other parts of the body.
Immune system disorder. A problem with the immune system may make the body unable to recognize and destroy endometrial tissue that’s growing outside the uterus.
There is no treatment for endometriosis though there are several methods developed to minimize the pain.
Pain medication comes in handy to counter the pain. The medicine used is prescribed by the doctor has a higher content than normal painkillers. It is also advisable not to self-prescribe to avoid doing more harm than good.
Hormonal therapy helps to regulate the progression of pain and relieve pain. Hormones such as estrogen lead to the formation of endometrial cells.
Conservative surgery removes endometrial growths without damaging the reproductive organs. The surgery depends on the location of the growths.
Hysterectomy is the last option; it involves removal of the uterus, ovaries, and cervix.
You can find out more about endometriosis here. In Kenya, there is a support group for those suffering from endometriosis. You can check out the Facebook group here.