Endometriosis: What Is It, And How Can It Be Treated?
My thanks go out to Tori, who writes the great blog Anytime Yoga, for her topic suggestion of Endometriosis treatment/ pain management techniques that have been developed over the past ten years. Tori’s blog talks about Yoga techniques that may help us stay healthy physically and spiritually. She also talks about her own personal struggles with chronic pain, and her efforts to maintain balance in her life through Yoga. It’s a great blog, and I recommend you check it out as soon as you can!
During the course of writing this post I did stray a wee bit from the topic. The post doesn’t so much talk about treatments that have been developed in the last ten years. Instead I chose to focus on an overall description of the disorder, as well as the most recommended treatments from western medicine. In addition, I touch on some alternative treatments, as well as my own personal insights on a change of diet, and how it can really affect our overall well being.
Without further adieu, I give you:
Endometriosis: What Is It, And How Can It Be Treated?
Endometriosis is an often quite painful disorder exclusive to women. The tissue, or endometrium, which normally lines the uterus, actually grows outside the uterus. This tissue normally stays in the pelvic region, including the ovaries, bowels, and the tissue lining on the pelvis itself.
This displaced endometrial tissue grows just like it would if it were in the uterus. During menstrual cycles, the tissue thickens, breaks down, and bleeds. As a result the broken down and displaced tissue and blood becomes trapped in the abdominal and pelvic cavity. The affected areas will often become irritated, and develop scar tissue or adhesions, which can often bind pelvic organs together. If your a man, try picturing an adhesion in your pelvic region that binds your prostate and testicles together, and you can get a decent idea of what Endometriosis is all about
A woman with Endometriosis can experience pain which can range from light to quite severe. Women with Endometriosis will often suffer fertility problems, as the fallopian tubes may be affected by the tissue growth, and become partially to completely blocked. It is estimated by the Mayo Clinic that one third to one half of women who suffer from Endometriosis also suffer from infertility.
Symptoms of Endometriosis can include
Pelvic pain which increases over time.
Pain with sexual intercourse
Pain during bowel movements or urination
Excessive bleeding during periods.
Diarrhea or constipation
Many of these symptoms are also indicative of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and often times one can be confused for the other. To make matters more confusing, IBS can often accompany Endometriosis, and really complicate the diagnosis.
The most common cause of Endometriosis is Retrograde Menstruation, in which menstrual blood containing endometrial cells can flow back through the fallopian tubes, and into the pelvic cavity, as opposed to out of the body during menstruation. As a result, the cells will stick to pelvic walls and organs. However, in my opinion, I think their may be environmental causes at play as well. We are continuously exposed to more pollutants and chemicals as each day passes, and I firmly believe that these pollutants and chemicals are wreaking havoc on our bodies. Since the causes of Endometriosis are still elusive to doctors to identify, there are no known preventive measures to prevent it. Although, it is widely believed that women who get pregnant at an early age are less likely to get Endometriosis.
Even in this day and age, there are really no cures for Endometriosis. The disorder will go away after menopause, but there are mostly only avenues to manage the pain or stop menstruation completely to stem the root cause of the disorder. Some common methods to ease the devastating effects of the disease include hormonal therapies such as contraceptives that control the hormones such as estrogen, that cause tissue build up and break down. Additionally, sufferers can turn to hormonal therapies such as Gonadotropin, which blocks ovarian stimulating hormones. This drug works by preventing periods, lowering estrogen levels, and causing tissue to shrink. Gonadotropin has proven to be quite effective; some cases actually go into remission.
Other hormonal drugs include Danazol, which also blocks menstrual hormones and suppresses growth of endometrium, and Depo-Provera, which halts menstruation all together. However, these drugs can have some nasty side effects; Danazol can cause acne and facial hair growth, while the Depo-Provera can cause weight gain, decreased bone production, and depression.
There are also surgeries available in more extreme situations. The conservative approach would be to remove the tissue, either through laparoscopy or more traditional abdominal surgery. The tissue is either removed or burned from the affected areas, leaving the pelvic organs intact. In the most extreme of cases, a hysterectomy has to be performed, in which the uterus and cervix is removed. However, this is not always effective; there have been many instances in the case of hysterectomies in which the ovaries can still produce the hormone estrogen, resulting in endometrium continuing to grow and affecting the quality of life for many women.
Aside from traditional western medicine, there has been very little discussion of alternative therapies that I could find. It has been suggested that a warm bath and a heating pad can help relieve pain, but that is a short term solution. There is also belief in some circles that acupuncture can help a great deal. In light of how serious this condition can be, and how much it can affect a woman’s life, I think acupuncture is worth a shot.
Another alternative may be diet; this is just my opinion, but the amount of chemicals, preservatives, and additives that we ingest daily through our food and drink is staggering. I truly believe that our bodies can not process all of the garbage we take in, and our body becomes disturbingly out of balance, resulting in huge changes in our cellular make up. In other words, our bodies become completely out of whack, and our health is the first thing to suffer. My partner and I have almost completely transitioned to all natural, organic foods, and I can honestly say that both of us feel a great deal better. My partner suffers from Fibromyalgia, and since we’ve gone almost completely chemical free, she’s feeling better than she has for some time now.
I would also recommend that sufferers of Endometriosis find a support group to help cope with the pain and stress of this disorder. Remember, it always helps to talk with and relate to others who are in your same situation. Getting it off your chest to someone who understands can be cathartic and therapeutic. You may also be able to find other alternative treatments in these support groups to help manage the disorder.
Endometriosis can be a life altering disorder, but it doesn’t have to end the quality of life. If you are a woman who suffers from abdominal and pelvic pain during menstrual cycles, please, go see your gynecologist. Hell, see two if you have too. It never hurts to get a second opinion. Make sure you get regular check ups, and do your best to stay in tune with your body. The way I see it, if you think your body is trying to tell you something, it probably is. The earlier you start to listen, the more you can do to take the steps necessary to lead a happy and healthier life.
- Patricia Yarberry Allen: Menopause, Hormone Therapy and Endometriosis (huffingtonpost.com)
- The Link Between Endometriosis and Late Periods (brighthub.com)
- Endometriosis Versus Ovarian Cancer (brighthub.com)
- Chronic pelvic pain often misdiagnosed in black women, study finds (thegrio.com)
- Endometriosis Affects Quality of Life (blogher.com)