A chronic and painful condition that can affect a woman’s fertility and participation in everyday activities, school, work, and sporting activities. But such are the symptoms of endometriosis, a condition that is highly prevalent in Australia. The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health shows that over 11%, i.e., 1 in 9 women, experience these symptoms, and 6% of the women over 40 have been diagnosed with the condition. The condition costs over 7 billion AUD in Australia for women and decreases their productivity and quality of life. So, women would want to know what is endometriosis, why it develops, and can they do anything to prevent it.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis or ‘endo’ is a condition where the endometrial tissue, normally found in the uterine lining, grows on other parts of the body like the peritoneum, cervix, vulva, bowel, bladder, rectum, fallopian tube, ovaries and outside the uterus, causing health problems in women. These tissues, not unlike the endometrial lining, respond to the hormones secreted by the ovaries and cause bleeding. It leads to scarring and inflammation, which causes intense pain. Symptoms of endometriosis include painful cramps during sex, urination and bowel movements, back pain, fatigue, bleeding or spotting, infertility, digestive issues and other health issues. There are three main types of endometriosis: superficial peritoneal lesion, endometrial and deeply infiltrating endometriosis.
What Causes Endometriosis?
The external growth occurring in endometriosis is benign, i.e., non-cancerous. It occurs when tissue similar to the interior uterine lining grows in places it doesn’t belong. There are no definitive causes that medical professionals know of. However, researchers have stated these as the possible causes.
Researchers have also observed that endometriosis runs in families. So, the condition could be inherited genetically.
Issues with Menstrual Flow
Researchers have observed that retrograde menstrual flow is one of the most likely causes of endometriosis. Some tissues shed during the period exit through the fallopian tubes and other areas like the pelvis resulting in the condition.
Issues With the Immune System
A poor immune system may fail to identify and destroy the benign tissues growing outside the uterus leading to endometriosis and sometimes cancer. Those who suffer from immune disorders are vulnerable to developing this condition.
Researchers are looking into the role of hormones like estrogen on the condition, and correlations can be seen.
Endometriosis can develop if the endometrial tissue is picked or moved by mistake during abdominal surgery. It can occur during surgeries such as a hysterectomy or a Cesarean (C-section). At times, the endometrial tissues are found in abdominal scars.
Is Endometriosis Preventable?
As the causes of the condition are not clear, there is no sure-fire way of preventing endometriosis. But there are some precautions women can take to reduce their chances of developing the condition by lowering the estrogen levels in their bodies. Estrogen helps thicken the uterine lining during menstrual cycles to help keep the lining intact. To ensure this, women can:
- Consult doctors and get answers to questions like, what is endometriosis, what are its causes, risk factors and prevention strategies. It includes hormonal birth control and uses the prescribed pills, rings or patches to lower the hormonal level.
- Exercise regularly to maintain a low body fat percentage. Fitness and lower body fat help decrease the amount of estrogen generated in the body.
- Avoid consuming large amounts of alcoholic beverages as it raises the estrogen level. Those who are at risk of developing endometriosis must consume no more than one drink per day.
- Avoid consuming caffeinated drinks like soda, coffee and green tea to keep the hormonal level under control.