Endometriosis: what is it?

Endometriosis: what is it?

Endometriosis is an often painful condition which is said to affect around five million American women. However, the number of women suffering from the condition may actually be higher due to how long it can take to get a diagnosis. 

This introduction will be the first of a series of in-depth articles about endometriosis.

Here, we’ll look at what endometriosis is and what causes the condition.


What is it?

Endometriosis is a condition where the lining of the uterus grows outside of the womb. It can start to grow within the ovaries, the fallopian tubes and across the pelvic area. 

The trouble is, once this tissue breaks down, it doesn’t have anywhere to go. This leads to the development of severe cramping, cysts and heavier periods. In some cases, it can even cause issues with fertility. 

In severe cases, the tissue can grow in the cervix, vagina, bladder or bowel. There is also the possibility it can spread and grow to other areas of the body such as the lungs, although this is extremely rare.


What causes the condition?

The exact cause of endometriosis isn’t known. However, there are a number of theories. 

One of these theories is that blood containing endometrial cells travels back through the fallopian tubes during menstruation. The cells settle within the tubes, growing a new lining. There is another theory that the endometrial cells are carried throughout the body by the bloodstream. 

Endometrial cells can also attach to surgical incisions after procedures such as a hysterectomy or C-section, according to another theory. There is also a theory that immune system disorders can cause the body to be unable to recognize the endometrial tissue growth, meaning it won’t try to break it down.

Whatever the cause, the condition can cause a lot of misery to those who develop it. While the exact cause may not be known, there are some risk factors to be aware of.


Understanding the risk factors

Although the cause of endometriosis isn’t clear, there are certain risk factors that can increase your likelihood of suffering from the condition. These include:

  • Family history
  • Conditions that impact menstrual flow
  • Age
  • Menstrual cycle behavior
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Immune system disorders

It is thought that if someone in the family has endometriosis, you’ll be up to ten times more likely to develop the condition yourself. Your risk will be particularly high if it’s an immediate family member such as your mother or grandmother. 

There may also be other medical conditions that increase your risk, such as uterine growths, obstructions in the cervix and increased production of estrogen. Age can also play a role. Although it can occur in any girl or woman of menstruating age, it tends to be most commonly found in those in their 20s and 30s. 

If your immune system is weak or you have unusual menstrual cycle behavior, this can also increase your risk.

These are just some of the risk factors associated with endometriosis. The condition is a lot more common than many people realize. It can also have a devastating impact on those living with it. Therefore, if you suspect you may have the condition, it’s important to seek treatment as early as possible.


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