The mucous membrane that lines a woman’s uterus is called the endometrium. Endometriosis is when endometrial cells are growing in areas of the body outside of the uterus – usually elsewhere in the pelvic area.
This condition affects up to 10% of American women of child-bearing age. It normally affects women in their 30s and 40s, and it makes getting pregnant very difficult.
How Can Endometriosis Affect My Body?
Endometriosis usually affects the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other pelvic organs, although it can occur anywhere in the body. In very rare cases, endometriosis can appear in distant organs like the lungs, brain, and skin. One study noted that endometrial cells have been found in every organ except the spleen.
The displaced endometrial tissue acts normally, although its location is completely incorrect. It thickens in preparation for a baby, breaks down, and bleeds with each regular menstrual cycle.
Therein lies the issue. Because it is outside of the normal reproductive system, this displaced tissue has nowhere to go when it is shed like it does in the uterus.
Therefore, this can cause cysts, scarring, and irritation. Abnormal bands of fibrous tissue can develop, causing pelvic organs to attach and stick to each other.
The condition can be painful depending on the location of the endometriosis, and it can cause fertility problems. Fortunately, there are treatments that can reverse the effects.
What Are the Symptoms of Endometriosis?
The most common sign of endometriosis is pelvic pain, usually during menstruation – and the pain can radiate into the lower back and abdomen. This condition is often accompanied by pain either during or after sex.
Urination and bowel movements can be affected, causing unusual pain. Menstruation may produce excessive amounts of blood during and between cycles.
Depending on the location of the endometriosis, this condition can also lead to fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and nausea. The level of pain has nothing to do with the degree of the endometriosis: Severe pain may indicate a mild case, and vice versa.
It is often confused with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), because constipation, pain, and cramping can be quite severe. However, endometriosis can also appear in conjunction with IBS, which complicates making a diagnosis.
What Causes This Condition?
Although no single direct cause for endometriosis is known, possible causes and risk factors include retrograde menstruation. This is when the menstrual discharge flows back up through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity, instead of out of the body.
The displaced endometrial cells can attach themselves to organs and continue to grow as if they were still in the uterus. While there, they continue to thicken and cause bleeding in that location of the body, which causes a problem of drainage and collection.
There are a number of common risk factors that may increase your susceptibility of developing endometriosis, including the following:
- Never giving birth
- Having early-onset menstruation (before age 11)
- Later-age menopause
- Menstrual cycles that are consistently shorter than 27 days
- Extremely heavy periods that last more than 7 days
- Reproductive tract abnormalities
- Low body mass index (BMI)
- Higher-than-normal estrogen levels
OB/GYN in South Florida
If you are looking for a trustworthy and experienced obstetrician/gynecologist in the Fort Lauderdale area, Dr. Ladynez Espinal of Lady’s Care Center is here for you.
Contact our team today by calling (954) 538-1700 or request an appointment online, and trust your health to one of the most qualified OB/GYNs in South Florida.