Endometriosis

Endometriosis: Overview

Endometriosis is a disease affecting many millions of women and teens worldwide and a leading cause of female health problems.  This condition causes tissue such as the endometrium (the tissue inside the uterus which is shed each month during menses) to build up outside the lining of the uterus, or in other parts of the uterus or other areas of the body.  These implants respond to hormonal commands each month, break down and then bleed.  Unlike the endometrium, however, these tissue deposits have no way of leaving the body.

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The result is internal bleeding, degeneration of blood and tissue shed from the growths, inflammation of the surrounding areas, expression of irritating enzymes and formation of scar tissue.  In addition, depending on the location of the growths, interference with the bowel, bladder, intestines and other areas of the pelvic cavity can occur.  Endometriosis has even been found in the skin and at other extra-pelvic locations like the arms and legs, and even in the brain.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms can be very diverse depending on where the implant is located.  Symptoms which seem to come and go with the menstrual cycle are suspicious.  The implant responds to the same hormonal messages as other uterine tissue, swelling and changing during the cycle.  Because symptoms are so inconsistent and non-specific, it can easily masquerade as several other conditions, including adenomyosis, appendicitis, ovarian cysts, bowel obstructions, colon cancer, diverticulitis, fibroid tumors, gonorrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, ovarian cancer, and pelvic inflammatory disease.  Pain tends to increase with time and begins progressively earlier in each successive menstrual cycle.

Diagnosis and Tests

Endometriosis is a notoriously difficult condition to diagnose, the conclusion often being reached only after excluding other problems.  The presence of endometriosis can only be confirmed through examination of the tissue.  Fiberoptic laparoscopic techniques allow a direct look at the problematic tissue.  The average age at diagnosis is 37 years, and the majority of cases occur in women between the ages of 25 and 40.  Endometriosis is rare before the onset of menstruation and after menopause but not unknown.

Treatment and Prevention

Contrary to common misconceptions about the disease, there is no cure.  There are, however, several methods of treatment which may alleviate some of the pain and symptoms.

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Endometriosis:

Symptoms - Abdomen

Significant/slight abdominal distension

A study of 51 women, 26 with endometriosis and 25 without, found that a significantly larger proportion of women with endometriosis than control subjects experienced abdominal bloating (96% vs. 64%) [J Obstet Gynaecol Can.  2009 Dec; 31(12): pp1159-71]

Symptoms - Bowel Movements

Symptoms - General

Symptoms - Reproductive - General

Conditions that suggest Endometriosis:

Pain

Reproductive

Female Infertility

It has been estimated that some 25-50% of infertile women suffer from endometriosis.  The cause of infertility is believed to result from the scarring and adhesions that form in the reproductive tract as a result of inflammationScar tissue and adhesions may reduce fertility by either obstructing or distorting the shape of the fallopian tubes, which in turn impedes the passage of sperm to the egg.  In the event that sperm do reach the egg, they may encounter a hostile environment unfavorable to fertilization.  Finally, scarring from endometriosis may obstruct the fallopian tubes so that if an egg is fertilized, it may be unable to travel to the uterus for implantation.

Symptoms - Reproductive - General

Uro-Genital

Risk factors for Endometriosis:

Habits

Aerobic Exercise Need

Endometriosis has been linked to a lack of physical activity.

Medical Procedures

Counter-indicators

Symptoms - Allergy

Symptoms - Food - Preferences

Partial vegetarian/omnivorous diet

A study in July, 2004 showed that the consumption of meats – particularly beef and pork – was associated with a significantly increased risk of developing endometriosis.

Symptoms - Reproductive - General

Normal age at/late birth of first child

A first pregnancy at a young age seems to protect against its development; the disease is more common in women whose first pregnancy, if any, is later in life.

Unusual vaginal bleeding

Although endometriosis is more common in women who are still having periods, it does affect between 2% to 5% of postmenopausal women.

Counter-indicators
(Very) early birth of first child

A first pregnancy at a young age seems to protect against its development; the disease is more common in women whose first pregnancy, if any, is later in life.

Counter-indicators
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Endometriosis suggests the following may be present:

Tumors, Malignant

Breast Cancer

Endometriosis has been linked to the environmental contaminant dioxin and a lack of physical activity, both of which are also associated with an increased breast cancer risk.

Ovarian Cancer

Endometriosis has been linked to the environmental contaminant dioxin and a lack of physical activity, both of which are associated with an increased ovarian cancer risk.

Melanoma

Endometriosis has been linked to the environmental contaminant dioxin and a lack of physical activity, both of which are also associated with an increased risk of melanoma.

Recommendations for Endometriosis:

Botanical

Vitex / Chasteberry

Vitex (as a hormone normalizer) may be considered the most appropriate of the herbal remedies for the underlying processes involved in endometriosis.

Black Cohosh

As a uterine tonic, it may help relieve symptoms.

Hormone

Natural Progesterone

Progesterone intravaginally can reduce the bleeding and pain associated with endometriosis.

Lab Tests/Rule-Outs

Test for Hormones

Estrogen excess or progesterone deficiency may contribute to the severity of the symptoms.

Surgery/Invasive

Surgery

Laser techniques to destroy endometrial tissue are currently popular in conventional medicine as is removing the uterus, ovaries (and perhaps appendix) thus stopping the menstrual cycle altogether.

Preventive measures against Endometriosis:

Diet

Plant-Based Nutrition

A study in July, 2004 showed that consumption of fresh fruits and green vegetables was associated with decreased risk of developing endometriosis, and preventing re-occurrence.

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