Endometriosis is a common gynecological condition. It was described in medical literature more than 300 years ago and has since been recognized as a chronic, painful, and often progressive disease in women. However, the causes of endometriosis are unknown, it is widely variable in symptoms and severity, and it is difficult to diagnose. In fact, some experts believe that endometriosis may turn out to be several disorders, not just one.
In spite of the high prevalence of endometriosis in women all over the world, researchers have been unable to determine its cause. A combination of genetic, biologic, and environmental factors appear to work together to trigger the initial process, to produce implantation, and to trigger subsequent reseeding and spreading of the implants.
Pain at the time of menstruation (dysmenorrhea) is the primary symptom and occurs in nearly all girls and women with endometriosis. Studies suggest that endometriosis is the cause of about 15% of cases of pain in the pelvic region in women. (This is the area in the lower trunk of the body). In addition to during menstruation, endometrial pain can occur at other times of the month. A survey published by the Endometriosis Association reported the following findings on the timing of endometrial pain:
71% of women reported pain within two days after their periods started.
47% reported pain in the middle of a cycle. (A sharp pain during ovulation may be due to an endometrial cyst located in the fallopian tube that ruptures as the egg passes through)
40% reported pain at other times of the month.
20% reported continual pain.
7% said there was no pattern.
Many women with endometriosis experience pain during intercourse.
Adolescents are more likely to experience pain that occurs both during their periods and at other times in the cycle, while in older women endometrial pain is more likely to occur during menstruation.
Nearly all women with endometrial pain experience it in the pelvic area (the lower part of the trunk of the body). The pain is often a severe cramping that occurs on both sides of the pelvis, radiating to the lower back and rectal area and even down the legs. Occasionally, however, pain may also occur in other regions if endometriosis affects other part of the pelvic area, such as the bladder or intestine. The severity of the pain also varies widely and does not appear to be related to the extent of the endometriosis itself. In other words, a woman can have very small or few implants and have severe pain, while those with extensive endometriosis may have very few signs of the disorder except for infertility. Large cysts can rupture and cause very severe pain at any time.
Patients may experience additional symptoms, which include the following:
Joint and muscle aches
Heavy menstrual bleeding
Depression and malaise (feeling generally low)
If you think you have endometriosis, talk to your doctor about diagnosis and treatment options.