Endometriosis, a hidden cause of menstrual pain Endometriosis, a hidden cause of menstrual pain

This condition consists of the presence of uterine tissue found in other parts of the body. Following through with a treatment plan is important.

Medical Advisor: Luz María Carvajal Restrepo, gynecologist

While it may be asymptomatic or silent, the warning signs of endometriosis include: intense, chronic pelvic pain, both in general and especially during menstruation; painful intercourse, infertility, heavy periods, gastrointestinal issues and even lung problems at its advanced stages. If these situations are not treated on time, they can affect the quality of women’s lives.

In this vein, clinical evidence shows that this disease is more common in women who have an obstructed uterus or cervix, heavy or frequent periods, or who have a family history of the disease. It can also occur as a result of environmental factors related to high levels of industrialization, or because of hormonal reasons. This condition is also common to any woman of childbearing age, experienced by an estimated 2 to 10 of every 100 women.

“Endometriosis is diagnosed when endometrial tissue – the lining of the uterus – is found in different areas of the uterine cavity, causing these areas to scar – fibrosis, when the tissues harden – and adhesions. Its health implications mainly include pelvic pain and infertility,” explains gynecologist, Luz María Carvajal Restrepo.

Getting a medical assessment is key

To diagnose the disease, a visual confirmation is needed as well as a pathological study. This study is performed through surgery, which usually consists of an initial laparoscopy to explore and treat the disease. The disease is then diagnosed and classified in order to determine what type of treatment should be used to improve symptoms and prevent it from progressing. Initially, hormone treatment is administered.

“The purpose of this treatment is to temporarily stop menstruation through combined oral contraceptives, oral progesterone (a hormone that counters estrogen), or long-term contraceptive devices,” states Carvajal.

If warning signs worsen, persist or the woman has tried to become pregnant for over a year, a complete exam should be performed with a gynecologist.

Generally, symptoms disappear or improve after menopause because the ovaries stop producing estrogen, a female hormone involved in causing the disease.

10%of all cases of endometriosis are progressive.

Classified by stages

The disease is classified into four stages depending on how compromised the organs are, and the extent and depth of the disease. There are also three variations:

  • Ovarian endometriosis: may be superficial or deep.
  • Superficial (peritoneal) endometriosis: can be located on the tissue that covers organs. May also be superficial or deep.
  • Adenomyosis: is always deep and is the most serious type in terms of symptoms and difficulty treating it.

Keep in mind

The word endometriosis comes from the word “endometrium.” Endo means “inner” and metrium means “womb,” where a baby develops inside the mother. Doctors commonly use the word “endometrium” to refer to the tissues that cover the lining of the uterus.

Does it cause infertility?

Currently, due to their professions, occupations or various personal goals, women are trying to become pregnant at an increasingly older age, which can compromise the quality of their eggs and, as a result of this, the natural fertility process. Endometriosis is a potential cause of this infertility due to how it distorts the pelvic anatomy.

Its adhesions can affect the release of the ovum and how the fallopian tube receives or passes the ovum. In such cases, surgical treatment is used to try and recover the body’s reproductive function by eliminating the endometriosis sites and reconstituting the pelvic anatomy that has been affected.

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