What Every Women Should Know about Endometriosis

What Every Women Should Know about Endometriosis

Endometriosis is the second most common gynaecological condition after fibroids, affecting around 10% of the women between the ages of 25-40 in their reproducing years. Nevertheless, the symptoms are often confused and hence detection is often delayed.

What is Endometriosis ?

Endometriosis is a condition in which endometrial (womb lining) cells are present in an unusual site outside the womb cavity. The word "endometriosis" is derived from the ancient Greek in which "end" means "inside", "metra" means "womb" and "osis" means "disease", problem or abnormality.

Endometrial tissues respond to a woman's hormonal cycle and so do the displaced endometrial cells, which continue to show response to a woman's hormones. They swell up and some will bleed into surrounding tissues during menstruation each month. This bleeding into previously healthy tissues triggers an enzymatic response and results in a build-up of inflammation and scarring.

The inflammation could indirectly lead to painful intercourse or even make intercourse impossible. Scarring on the other hand could affect the normal function of the bowel, bladder, ovaries and Fallopian tubes, which can also affect fertility.

Symptoms of Endometriosis ?

The symptoms of endometriosis depend on the site of the displaced endometrial cells rather than the extent of the disease itself. A minimal sign of the disease could cause great pain and distress in some women and may have no symptoms in women with extensive widespread disease.

Some classic symptoms associated with endometriosis are :

- Painful period ranging from premenstrual discomfort to pain after one or two days after the start of the bleeding. The pain could be felt on just one side or on both.

- Painful ovulation

- Swollen abdomen

- Loss of stale brown blood

- Pre-menstrual syndrome

- Heavy periods

- Deep pain during sex which may be felt in certain or any sexual positions

Symptoms that accompany menstrual cycle could be suggestive of endometriosis, in which case the doctor should be consulted.

Your doctor would probably conduct one of the following tests:

- An external abdominal examination for tenderness and lumps.

- Assess your vagina, uterus and ovaries through an internal examination

- Examine the rectum to feel the uterosacral ligaments running from the uterus to the back of the pelvis (sacrum) for tenderness and lumps behind the uterus.

Alternatively, there are some things which you can do to ease the symptoms of endometriosis. Watch your diet, include plant products in your diet, such as soya products (e.g. tofu), fiber-rich unrefined grain products, nuts and seeds, beans, berries and dried fruits. Such plants are believed to have a beneficial influence on human hormone status.

Fruits and vegetables in yellow, orange, red and green that are rich in vitamin C, E and beta-carotene should also be included in your diet to reduce cell damage. A diet rich in vitamin C, E and betacarotene could help in the prevention of cancers or benign tumors such as fibroids. Women suffering from endometriosis may also suffer from pelvic congestion, especially during the premenstrual phase of the monthly cycle. Pelvic exercise on the other hand is believed to aid in reliving pelvic congestion to a certain extent.

One of the easiest pelvic exercises is to stop the flow of urine mid-stream each time you visit the toilet. By doing so, you are toning up your pelvic floor muscles and thus stimulating pelvic circulation and helping to drain away excess fluids.

Although the displaced cells involved in endometriosis are only slightly different from normal endometrial cells and are non-cancerous, early treatment is however advisable as the displaced cells may spread from one part of the body to another, take root and continue to grow.

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