Endometriosis is a fairly common gynecological condition, and it's capable of causing severe pelvic pain along with other symptoms such as constipation and difficulty urinating. It occurs when stray endometrial tissue is located anywhere other than the inside of the uterus.
While it's currently unknown why endometriosis happens, treatment is typically successful at reducing the symptoms that it causes. If you have been suffering from severe pelvic pain, read on for some more information about endometriosis, its other associated symptoms, and what you should do next.
What Is Endometriosis?
The lining of the uterus is comprised of endometrial tissue, which naturally builds up during the menstrual cycle in order to provide blood flow and nutrients to a fertilized egg. If no egg was fertilized during that particular menstrual cycle, the tissue sheds, resulting in menstrual bleeding. This process occurs as a result of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone that are naturally released during the menstrual cycle.
Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue is located outside of the uterus. It's commonly located on the outside of the uterus, but may also be present inside or outside other pelvic organs such as the ovaries, bladder, and colon. This stray endometrial tissue still responds to hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle, which will cause it to build up and shed as well.
When endometrial tissue builds up in places where it's not supposed to be located, it can place pressure on the organs that it's adjacent to. Additionally, when it sheds, the blood flow often has nowhere to go. Both of these factors can result in endometriosis symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of Endometriosis?
Endometriosis symptoms vary depending on where the stray endometrial tissue is located. The most common symptom is pelvic pain and cramping caused by the built-up endometrial tissue pressing on your other organs. This pain is typically much worse towards the end of the your menstrual cycle (near menstruation), but it can cause persistent pain throughout your entire menstrual cycle as well. If you have endometriosis, you may also feel deep pelvic pain after you have sexual intercourse.
However, pain isn't the only symptom of endometriosis. Stray endometrial tissue on other pelvic organs like the colon or bladder can cause you to have constipation or difficulty urinating. When this tissue sheds, it may also cause blood to show up in your urine or stool.
What Should You Do if You Think You Have Endometriosis?
If you have any of the above symptoms of endometriosis, schedule an appointment with your gynecologist. Many of these symptoms can have other causes, so your gynecologist will perform a few tests in order to check for endometriosis. A pelvic exam is often performed to check for cysts that can be caused by endometrial tissue located on the ovaries, and your gynecologist will ask you a few questions about your symptoms to determine if endometriosis is likely.
The only definitive way to diagnose endometriosis, however, is through pelvic laparoscopy. This is a minor surgery done through a small incision that allows your gynecologist to examine your pelvic organs for the presence of stray endometrial tissue. Your gynecologist may take a small sample of any tissue that's found in order to make an absolute determination of its type. Your gynecologist will most likely prescribe you oral contraceptives in order to prevent your stray endometrial tissue from building up and shedding.
You should also visit your gynecologist if you have been trying to become pregnant and have been unsuccessful. Some women with endometriosis experience very minor symptoms or even no symptoms at all, but endometriosis often reduces fertility. You and your gynecologist will work together to determine whether or not endometriosis could be the root cause of fertility problems. If you're trying to become pregnant, then the most common treatment for endometriosis is a conservative surgery that removes as much of the stray endometrial tissue as possible.
While endometriosis can often be quite painful, symptoms can controlled in most cases by preventing the endometrial tissue from building up using oral contraceptives or removing it altogether with surgery. If you have persistent pelvic pain or have been unsuccessful in becoming pregnant, schedule an appointment with your gynecologist to determine if endometriosis is the cause.
For more information, contact a doctor like George L Stankevych, MD.