The endometrium is the mucus membrane that normally lines the inside of the uterus. During the menstrual cycle, it responds to hormones by thickening with blood vessels in preparation for pregnancy. Once this does not occur, it breaks down and becomes your period.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition in which endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus. It can grow on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, the external surface of the uterus, and even the rectum, intestines, and urinary organs. The areas where the endometrium is growing abnormally are called implants.
The implants respond to hormones in the same way that the uterine lining does by thickening, breaking down, and shedding. However, since this is occurring outside the uterus, the tissue can become inflamed, irritated, and scarred. The areas of scar tissue are called adhesions. Adhesions can cause organs to stick together, which can be painful during and just before your period.
Endometriosis is fairly common, affecting around 10 percent of women in their childbearing years. Most patients are diagnosed between the ages of 30-40.
Signs & Symptoms of Endometriosis
Endometriosis usually feels like severe PMS symptoms, such as:
- Chronic pelvic cramping, especially before and during your period
- Heavy bleeding
- Painful intercourse
- Painful bowel movements or urination (if implants are affecting these organs)
Endometriosis can also cause fertility problems. It’s estimated that around 40 percent of women who have difficulty getting pregnant suffer from endometriosis. Inflammation of the ovaries and fallopian tubes may hurt the sperm or egg, and adhesions may cause the fallopian tubes to stick together and block the egg’s path to the uterus.
How is Endometriosis Diagnosed?
If you’re experiencing pain and heavy bleeding, make an appointment with us for an examination. Many different conditions present with similar symptoms. At your appointment, we will go your medical history and perform a physical and pelvic exam.
The only way to diagnose endometriosis with certainty is to take a look at your pelvic organs with surgery. A laparoscopy is a surgical procedure in which a thin, flexible, lighted instrument is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen. The doctor may take a biopsy of the tissue for further testing.