What is endometriosis? Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of a disorder with consequences on pregnancy
Endometriosis is a rather painful female disorder due to the migration of endometrial tissue - generally present in the uterine cavity - to areas other than its physiological site. Endometriosis, and therefore the leakage of the endometrium, generally involves the ovaries - ovarian endometriosis - the intestine - intestinal endometriosis - or the tissue that lines the pelvis, normally not affecting the areas beyond the pelvic region.
Below you can find a series of information on "endometriosis: what it is", what are the causes, the main symptoms to make a correct diagnosis, the most effective treatments, up to the most common complications and consequences (those concerning pregnancy first of all) of this little known pathology.
What is endometriosis and what are the causes?
In endometriosis, the most superficial part of the endometrium that comes out of the uterine cavity continues to act as if it were normally inside: this means that with each menstrual cycle it thickens, breaks and bleeds, but cannot be expelled from the body. , builds up, creating problems and causing pain.
In the event that endometriosis involves the ovaries, cysts can also form, called endometriotic cysts or endometriomas. In rare cases, this pathology can also cause fertility problems, but fortunately there are specific treatments and cures aimed at avoiding these discomforts. The main symptom and discomfort of endometriosis is severe pelvic pain, particularly acute in coincidence with the menstrual cycle.
One of the most likely causes of "endometriosis may be so-called" retrograde menstruation, "which occurs when some of the menstrual blood flows through the tubes into the abdominal cavity and cells from the lining of the uterus could then adhere to the peritoneum and even grow there.
There are also risk factors such as the absence of pregnancies, the presence in the family of women who have suffered from it, the irregularity of the cycle (menstruation lasting more than eight days), pelvic infections or physical problems that prevent regular menstrual flow .
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Symptoms and Diagnosis of Endometriosis
The symptoms of endometriosis are numerous, although rather generic, therefore, more difficult to identify. These include pelvic pain, which also leads to having rather painful sexual intercourse, a menstrual cycle that is much more painful than average (dysmenorrhea), often with heavy discharge (menorrhagia), or bleeding between periods (menometrorrhagia).
Other symptoms of endometriosis can be constipation, diarrhea or back pain: these are rather common problems that may not make us think directly of endometriosis - also considering that we are talking about a pathology that is not really well known. As we mentioned earlier, a much more serious symptom could be infertility and this can consequently also lead to psychological problems: in fact, it is not so rare for psychological symptoms to appear as an alarm bell for endometriosis. a simple malaise up to a real state of depression.
In cases such as those mentioned above, it is good to consult a doctor to have a certain and correct diagnosis and consequent more adequate treatment.
How is ovarian or intestinal endometriosis treated?
In case of pain that is not too acute, it can be "dabbed" with a drug treatment, that is a pain reliever without a doctor's prescription, which helps to alleviate cramps and pains in the abdominal area, however the most common and effective treatment at the same time is that hormonal. In fact, supplemental hormones are often the best way to reduce or eliminate pain. This is because the hormonal drug would slow down the rise and fall of hormones during the cycle, decreasing the consequent thickening of endometrial implants. Hormone therapy works in most cases, but does not represent a permanent solution: in fact, the case is quite frequent. relapse occurs after stopping treatment.
In some cases, we rely on treatments that require surgery. In the past it was thought that the only real cure could be a pregnancy, but unfortunately recent studies have established the fact that the problem can recur even after childbirth.
Endometriosis and pregnancy: what are the consequences for those trying to get pregnant?
One of the main complications of endometriosis is the possible infertility: a third of women with this pathology have difficulty getting pregnant. Endometriosis could obstruct the fallopian tube and prevent the union of egg and sperm or cause damage to the same spermotozoa and eggs making a possible pregnancy more complex, if not completely compromised.
Women with mild to moderate endometriosis should be able to sustain and carry a pregnancy to term. In any case, if you have endometriosis it would be good not to delay having children, obviously compatibly with your choices and living conditions, because the disease tends to worsen over time. Listen to the opinion of an expert in this video:
Endometriosis and natural cures
According to some women, natural cures could also work to alleviate the pain caused by endometriosis. The most effective seems to be acupuncture. Obviously we are talking about cases in which endometriosis is not in an acute or particularly advanced state.
If you think you want to take this alternative route, consult your doctor, especially to evaluate whether it is effective or not in your specific case.
Endometriosis in menopause: is it possible?
Endometriosis is a disease that mainly affects women of childbearing age, therefore in the period from the first menstruation to the one immediately preceding the menopause. It can happen, exceptionally, that it also arises in the initial phase of menopause. Generally, however, if menopause represents a period that is anything but pleasant, it must be admitted that, as far as the pathology in question is concerned, this phase of female life represents a help, coming to relieve the symptoms and pain associated with the disease. In fact, as menopause progresses, the symptoms of endometriosis tend to cease.
Already after the age of 40, however, the risk of endometriosis decreases considerably, due to the fact that the growth of endometrial tissue is slowed down.
Endometriosis and nutrition: the most suitable foods and those to avoid
As always, nutrition plays an important role in the treatment and prevention of a pathology. A correct diet can in fact be of great help in alleviating the symptoms and not worsening the situation in case of endometriosis. The first goal is to avoid "increase in the level of sugar in the blood, ie blood sugar, which is a strong inflammatory factor.
For this purpose, simple sugars are therefore to be avoided and it would be good to prefer their wholemeal versions to refined pasta and bread. An important contribution of omega 3, with strong anti-inflammatory properties, mainly contained in fatty sea fish and nuts, and phytoestrogens, useful for mitigating the action of circulating estrogens in the female body and present in a conspicuous manner, is also essential. in legumes, in particular in soy. Here are some foods rich in omega 3:
© iStock Omega 3: foods where to find them
On the other hand, dairy products, milk and derivatives should be limited, as they often contain a "high concentration of estrogen, red meat and hydrogenated fats, found above all in biscuits, snacks, breadsticks, rusks, chips and the like.
On the other hand, lipids such as extra virgin olive oil - rich in vitamin E - and linseed oil, which contains "good" essential fatty acids, both with anti-inflammatory properties, have a beneficial effect.
For more useful information on endometriosis, you can visit the website of the Italian Endometriosis Foundation.