What is endometriosis!

Endometriosis is a biological malfunction which focuses on the reproductive organs and the pelvic region of a woman’s body.

This disease will start quietly, insidiously and unnoticed. Then gradually, symptoms of painful periods, pain at other times of the month, and a general feeling of being run-down, will start to develop.

In women with Endometriosis, the natural bodily processes of the reproductive system goes seriously wrong. The disease is linked and affected by the menstrual cycle and the hormones that make menstruation happen.

It is oestrogen in the body that feeds the disease once it has taken hold and will encourage further growth of the disease with the development of cysts. These cysts can then grow and start to cause adhesions in the pelvic cavity.

Endometriosis - the enigmatic disease of the modern age!

Endometriosis is one of the most far-reaching, devastating and  misunderstood diseases in the world today.

endometriosis explained
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An image you can share with others to help explain 'in one sentence' what endometriosis is, and to help raise awareness

It is estimated that there are over 176 million women and girls who suffer from the disease world-wide.

This number is growing all the time. It is more common than breast cancer or Aids, and many other diseases, that are well known. Despite the huge numbers of women who suffer from this disease, few people have actually heard of it, but this is gradually changing, though very slowly.

Becoming more common ...

This disease is becoming more and more common. It seems to be gaining ground. This could be for a variety of reasons:

  • The methods of detecting and diagnosing endometriosis are improving all the time, so statistics reflect this as growing numbers of cases are detected.

  • The seriousness of the disease is gradually gaining momentum and more people are finally beginning to hear about it. This may be through television programs, magazine articles, the internet, or talking to friends.

    So there is an ever increasing public awareness. This public awareness helps to alert women who have concerns about their health, especially regarding pelvic and menstrual pain, so more women are able to determine whether they have Endometriosis.

  • More women are taking their pelvic pain and period pain seriously, rather than thinking of it as normal, so they are pursuing answers from the medical profession.

  • Finally, the numbers of women who have the disease appears to be increasing in actuality, especially in the last 30 years or so. It is also more common in industrial countries, where pollution is higher.

How the disease starts:

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Physically, what happens is that tiny, and sometimes microscopic particles that are similar to the lining of the womb, find their way into the pelvic cavity. These particles behave in the same manner as the lining of the womb. The lining of the womb is called the endometrium, which is where this disease gets its name.

The natural process of the endometrium is to react with hormones produced in the body and each month the endometrium builds up with blood cells and other chemicals to prepare for pregnancy. When pregnancy does not occur then the endometrium sheds this blood and women have a period.

A similar reaction takes place in the stray cells that have found their way into the pelvic cavity. Each month they react to hormones, and break down and bleed, but the blood and tissue shed from these endometrial growths has no way of leaving the body. This results in internal bleeding, breakdown of the blood and tissue from these sites and leads to inflammation.

This process continues for months, or even years before symptoms of serious pain begins to develop. Many women start to suspect something is wrong because the amount of pain they feel with their periods. It will become worse as the months go by. It is then that women start to investigate and question the state of their health.

For other women the disease may not throw up any noticeable symptoms, but they may be having problems with their fertility and are not successful in conceiving. It is then that they seek medical advice which could lead to having a laparoscopy. It is during this procedure that the disease may be found.

As time goes by, this disease will progress and start to do more damage in the pelvic cavity. Eventually it can lead to scar tissue formation, adhesions, bowel problems, as well as a gradual decline in general health.

The disease in context

Endometriosis is not fatal. It is not a disease that you catch from another person, nor is it a micro-organism that causes the disease like the processes of other infectious diseases.

Basically it appears that the body, and its natural healing processes are defective. It can strike women at any time of their reproductive life but we are seeing more and more cases of young girls who have the disease.

Recent studies are beginning to indicate that women with the disease are at greater risk of other health problems, but this could be an indicator that women with this disease are actually suffering from a break-down in the immune system. This situation seems to ‘ring true’ as many women who have the disease seem to suffer from a myriad of other health problems.

It is affecting millions of women around the world today. It not only affects her health, it also affects quality of life, possibilities of having children, income earning potential, emotional well-being, relationships, sex life, economics where women live in a country and have to pay for treatment, and social life; in essence it affects the entire life of women.

These are the hard facts that surround this disease today. Many women suffer for years and years. They may have one surgical procedure after another. They may spend thousands of dollars on treatment, especially if their health insurance does not cover it. They may travel miles in pursuit of sympathetic and informed medical treatment.

But there are some glimmers of hope beginning to appear. Many women today are beginning to take care of their own health with regard to dealing with this disease. They are starting to realize that all is not clear cut with the objectives and priorities regarding health care in the modern world.

Also there are more and more doctors who are beginning to specialize in the disease and new surgical techniques are being developed all the time.

Hope and self help

Hope and courage for many women is gained through sharing information and advice, and this helps them to stop feeling so alone.

Many self-help ideas and tips are being exchanged between fellow sufferers through forums and support groups. Where these measures prove successful, this helps to instil confidence and proof that these self help methods can help with the symptoms and pain caused by this disease. This includes using various natural treatments, diet changes and simple life-style changes.

How do you know that you have endometriosis?

Currently, health care providers use a number of tests for endometriosis. Sometimes they will use imaging tests to produce a "picture" of the inside of the body, which allows them to locate larger endometrial growths, such as nodules or cysts.

The two most common imaging tests are ultrasound, a machine that uses sound waves to make the picture, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a machine that uses magnets and radio waves to make the picture.

The only way to know for sure that you have the disease is by having surgery. The most common type of surgery is called laparoscopy. In this procedure, the surgeon inflates the abdomen with a harmless gas. After making a small cut in the abdomen, the surgeon uses a small viewing instrument with a light, called a laparoscope, to look at the reproductive organs, intestines, and other surfaces to see if there is any endometriosis.

The surgeon can make a diagnosis based on the characteristic appearance of endometriosis. This diagnosis can then be confirmed by doing a biopsy, which involves taking a small tissue sample and studying it under a microscope.

Read stories from women and girls describing how endometriosis affects their lives.

You can leave feedback and support messages for these women and you find a form to submit your own story of life with endometriosis

There are MANY things you can do to Fight Endometriosis and take more control of your health. Find out MORE ......

› Endometriosis explained

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