Endometriosis is a medical condition, wherein the cells that are normally found in the intrauterine lining, grow on the organs outside the uterus. Usually, this condition involves the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, tissues that line the pelvis, and the bowels. Endometrial tissues may also be found in other organs of the pelvis. In some cases, such tissues may spread beyond the pelvic cavity. Endometriosis is mostly found in women within the age group of 25 to 50. In some cases, the condition does not require treatment, and subsides on its own. The treatment for endometriosis is mainly aimed at alleviating the symptoms, or for remedying fertility problems.
What is Endometriosis?
The cells of the endometrium (the inner lining of the uterus) are usually shed during menstruation. In case of endometriosis, these cells grow in locations outside the uterus. They continue with their normal monthly cycle. They thicken, rupture, and bleed every month, during menstruation. However, these displaced tissues do not have an exit, as in case of the uterus. So they get trapped, resulting in various symptoms, that may range from mild to severe.
Endometriosis is a painful condition, which produces symptoms, like painful menstruation, excess menstrual bleeding, painful intercourse, and infertility. The affected women may also experience pain during urination and bowel movements (especially during periods), and intermittent pelvic pain. However, the symptoms may vary from one women to another.
While there is no definite cause for this condition, retrograde menstruation is said to be a possible reason. It happens, when the menstrual blood enters the pelvic cavity, through the fallopian tubes. There, the endometrial cells attach to other organs or the cavity lining, causing endometriosis.
As of now, there is no cure for endometriosis. Treatment is aimed at managing the symptoms; or to slow down the growth and spread of endometrial cells at locations other than the uterus; or for improving fertility. In some mild cases, wait and watch policy is said to be the best, if the condition is not causing much discomfort, and if there are no fertility problems.
So, the mode of treatment is decided according to the age of the woman, fertility problems, and severity of symptoms. Diagnosis of this condition is done through laparoscopy, which facilitates a visual inspection of the pelvic and abdominal cavity. During laparoscopy, tissue samples can also be taken for biopsy. Once the condition is diagnosed as endometriosis, treatment can be decided. In general, treatment involves use of pain medication, hormone therapy, or surgery.
For Alleviating Pain
If the affected person does not have any plan to get pregnant in the near future, but wants a treatment for pain relief, then the following are some of the available options. In such cases, pain and related discomfort can be remedied with NSAIDs, which are anti-inflammatory drugs that reduce pain, bleeding, and inflammation. Hormonal contraceptives are also used for treating endometriosis patients with mild symptoms. These hormones, as found in birth control pills and patches, help to alleviate pain, as they cause shrinking of the endometrial cells. It is said that birth control hormones are also effective in controlling the condition from worsening.
It may happen that, those with severe symptoms of endometriosis do not respond to the above said treatment. In such cases, other types of stronger hormone therapy are recommended. They include gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist (GnRH-a), progestin, progestin intrauterine device, danazol, and aromatase inhibitors. In some cases, stronger hormone therapies may not work. Such women require surgery for relief from endometriosis. Surgery is also done in women with very severe symptoms. Surgery is mainly aimed at removing the endometrial growths or scars. Such surgical treatment may also include removal of the uterus (hysterectomy) and the ovaries.
In women with fertility problems due to endometriosis, treatment can be a little bit complicated. Those with milder conditions may not require any treatment. However, women with moderate to severe endometriosis may need treatment to improve their chances of getting pregnant. In such cases, surgery is a treatment option for endometrial growths.
The endometrial cells, as well as the scar tissues (especially, on the ovaries and fallopian tubes) are removed surgically, so as to improve the chances of getting pregnant. Other treatment options include In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), artificial insemination, and medication for promoting ovulation. Hormonal treatment is not advisable for women, who are planning to get pregnant. In some cases, a short-period of hormonal therapy followed by fertility treatment, may improve the chances of getting pregnant.
Usually, treatment is not required for those with mild endometriosis, and those who are reaching menopause. Even pregnancy improves the symptoms associated with this condition. Some women resort to natural treatment methods, like aromatherapy, acupuncture, homeopathy, and herbal remedies. There is no scientific backing to prove the effectiveness of such treatment. So, you can discuss with your health care provider, and decide the right treatment for you.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.