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Cramping Your Style

What Is Endometriosis?

In this condition, the endometrial material (the tissue lining the womb) exists outside the uterus, on the fallopian tubes, ovaries or the tissue lining the pelvis. It continues to thicken, break down, and bleed each month. Since there is no outlet for the blood from this displaced tissue to leave your body, it becomes trapped. Trapped blood may lead to the growth of cysts, which, in turn, may form scar tissue and adhesions.

Endometriosis can cause pain in the pelvis, especially during your period. It can also cause fertility problems since scars and adhesions on the ovaries or fallopian tubes can prevent conception. This condition may affect menstruating women of any age or race. When menstruation ends permanently with menopause or stops temporarily with pregnancy, the symptoms of endometriosis disappear. They can begin again after pregnancy when menstruation resumes.

Does This Mean I Can't Have Children?

While the main complication of endometriosis is impaired fertility, many women with endometriosis are still able to conceive although it may take them a little longer. Having endometriosis doesn't increase your risk of uterine cancer or ovarian cancer. However, recurring pain can lead to depression, irritability, anxiety, anger and feelings of helplessness. Infertility linked to endometriosis can also cause emotional distress.

What Causes Endometriosis?

We do not know the exact cause. There are many theories and the most acceptable one is the retrograde menstruation theory, or backflow of menstruation. The tricky thing about this theory is that we know 99 per cent of women with unblocked fallopian tubes have backflow. Why do only a percentage of women - five to 10 per cent- have endometriosis and others don't? There are no answers for that but a lot of research is being carried out. Some women may have an inherited tendency to develop endometriosis.

Can Endometriosis Be Mistaken For Other Conditions That Cause Pelvic Pain?

Endometnosis is sometimes mistaken for pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or ovarian cysts. It may also be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that causes bouts of diarrhoea, constipation and abdominal cramping. IBS can accompany endometnosis, which can complicate the diagnosis. Very rarely will you have painful bowel or urinary symptoms during menstruation. Sometimes there's a feeling of needing to go to the toilet very often, but usually there's nothing to pass out. Here are the symptoms of endometriosis to watch out for:
  • Pain: You may experience painful periods (dysmenorrhea), pain during sex, or chronic pelvic pain.
  • Excessive bleeding: You may experience occasional heavy periods (menorrhagia) or bleeding between periods (menometrorrhagia).
  • Infertility: You have been trying for a while and are unable to conceive because endometriosis very often blocks the fallopian tubes, making it difficult to conceive.
  • Cysts: You may have a cyst that is large enough to be brought to your attention. An ultrasound scan should pick up its presence, whilst a laproscopy will be able to reveal the endometriotic adhesions.

Can The Pain During Sex Be Reduced?

It really depends on where the adhesions sit within the womb. You may consider avoiding deep penetration to prevent hitting the scar tissue or adhesions. You could also avoid having sex during the times of the month when the condition could be a little more inflamed. If the pain has been present for some time now, you really must ask yourself if surgery is the answer. It's not a one-dimensional problem different women have different priorities. There are also many other reasons for having pain during sex and it could be due to lack of foreplay or dryness m the vagina.

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