Endometriosis Awareness takes place across the globe during the month of March with a mission to raise awareness of “the invisible disease”, which affects an estimated 176 million women. Thanks to the Endometriosis Association, women, girls, and families all over the world have a wealth of information and resources to turn to when coping with endometriosis. Compared to the lack of information and support in 1980–the year the Association was founded– it is a strikingly different world. Yet, despite much progress, endometriosis is still a complex and puzzling disease that has no real cure.
Endometriosis happens when the lining of the uterus (womb) grows outside of the uterus. Endometriosis, sometimes called “endo”, is a common health problem in women. It affects about 5 million American women. Endometriosis is especially common among women in their 30s and 40s. The most common symptom is pain. The pain happens most often during your period, but it can also happen at other times. Endometriosis may also make it harder to get pregnant. Several different treatment options can help manage the symptoms and improve your chances of getting pregnant. Most often, endometriosis is found on the:
- Fallopian Tubes
- Tissues that hold the uterus in place
- Outer surface of the uterus
Other sites for growths can include the vagina, cervix, vulva, bowel, bladder, or rectum. Rarely, endometriosis appears in other parts of the body, such as the lungs, brain, and skin. Endometriosis growths are benign (not cancerous). But they can still cause problems. Endometriosis growths bleed in the same way the lining inside of your uterus does every month — during your menstrual period. This can cause swelling and pain because the tissue grows and bleeds in an area where it cannot easily get out of your body. No one knows for sure what causes this disease. Researchers are studying possible causes.
One theory is the retrograde menstruation theory (transtubal migration theory) suggests that during menstruation some of the menstrual tissue backs up through the fallopian tubes, implants in the abdomen, and grows. Some experts believe that all women experience some menstrual tissue backup and that an immune system problem or a hormonal problem allows this tissue to grow in the women who develop endometriosis. Another theory suggests that endometrial tissue is distributed from the uterus to other parts of the body through the lymph system or through the blood system. A genetic theory suggests that it may be carried in the genes in certain families or that some families may have predisposing factors to endometriosis.
Hormonal treatment works only as long as it is taken and is best for women who do not have severe pain or symptoms. There is no cure for endometriosis, but treatments are available for the symptoms and problems it causes. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options. For some women, the painful symptoms of endometriosis improve after menopause. As the body stops making the hormone estrogen, the growths shrink slowly. However, some women who take menopausal hormone therapy may still have symptoms of endometriosis