Endometriosis is a disease that can not only lead to fertility issues, but rather it can also seriously impede sexual relations along with causing pelvic pain, painful bowel movements and very painful menstruation, which are all symptoms that can bring about serious problems in women suffering from endometriosis.
< Currently, there are a series of socio-economic issues that are generating some temporary imbalances when it comes to satisfying the desire to have children. Economic hardships, the need for financial collaboration between both members of a couple, the delay in finding the ideal home for raising children and other factors give rise to the fact that when it is finally possible to think about having children, it is done at an age when the female physiology is not at its ideal time for child bearing and if the woman is still fertile, there are increasing difficulties to the point where sometimes reproduction is unachievable. Among all of this adversity, this pathology also plays a determining role, exacerbating the aforementioned afflictions even more. From a medical perspective, this disease is defined as a combination of symptoms produced when a type of concrete cells, the cells in the uterus lining, grow outside of the womb. In other words, there is a growth of uterine cells in other areas of the body that are not the uterus. Since they are cells that are prepared to respond to certain hormonal stimuli, symptoms such as pain, irregular bleeding and difficulty becoming pregnant appear, among others. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that the menstrual cycle deeply affects this cell growth “outside its place.”
Although it may be difficult to believe, one of the causes behind the manifestations or symptoms of Endometriosis are actually in the normal female menstrual cycle. Why is that? Let’s remember that the uterus is like a type of bag or upside down glass. Its lining gets thicker as the menstrual cycle progresses so that the female body can be prepared to house an embryo. This is achieved due to the influx of very specific hormones (steroid hormones). When the time comes and conception has not occurred, the body detects that everything it has prepared is not useful and it gets rid of it; this is the menstrual bleeding that expels the layer of cells that had been formed.
But what happens if part of those endometrial cells that had been shed were not all expelled correctly and some of them stayed inside the body?
This is what happens in cases of endometriosis: the implantation of these types of cells exists outside of the normal cavity (the uterus) in varying areas, such as for instance the interior of the pelvis, in the actual ovaries, but the cells can also be implanted in the intestines, the rectum or the bladder or other parts of the body. Furthermore, these cells that are reimplanted outside of their place continue to follow the “orders” of the hormonal influxes since they are not dead cells. This causes them to bleed sometimes when the ovarian cycle is over because they try to “obey the order to shed” but they are not able to be shed.
By the same token, as their growth is sometimes stimulated and sometimes not (also depending on the time of the cycle), this causes the typical symptoms that depend on the area of the body where they have been implanted.
Nonetheless, the real cause behind this issue is unknown, since the cell growth outside of its normal place does not occur due to the appearance or formation of these cells in strange places, but rather it seems to be a “relocation” of cells that originally were formed correctly. It is believed to be brought about by some type of reflux generated during the shedding of the lining, by some kind of retrograde menstrual flow. In other words, towards the back and inside. This can be caused by certain anatomic alterations as we will discuss later on in this article.
However, there are those who believe that women with endometriosis have some kind of immune disorder that has not been discovered yet. And what is certain is that it is more common in women whose mothers or sisters have suffered from it.
Typically, this disease is diagnosed between 25 and 35 years of age, but it is believed that it is probably initiated around the time when menstruation becomes regular.
Factors that Make Endometriosis More Likely to Appear
There are a series of factors that can make it so that it is more likely for this disease to appear, such as:
- An early age for the onset of menstruation. In other words, the start of the menstrual cycle (a girl’s first period) comes at a young age.
- The length of menstrual bleeding is too long. This means that the average duration of your menstrual periods lasts for 7 days or more.
- Any type of physical hardship that prohibits or creates problems for the menstrual blood to come out, such as for instance the existence of or the persistence of a closed hymen.
- If the woman has never had children.
One of the most characteristic symptoms of endometriosis is pain, although this does not always occur even when a woman has endometriosis. The pain is usually located in the lower abdominal area before or during menstruation. However, the appearance of pain is frequent at any point of the cycle. Moreover, engaging in sexual relations can bring about the aforementioned pain as well. Likewise, this also happens when you go to the bathroom to have a bowel movement.
Furthermore, cramps may also appear one or two weeks before the menstrual cycle or even during it. Their intensity may vary quite a bit: they might be almost imperceptible or more intense.
Tests and Examinations
The most complicated part of detecting endometriosis is when no symptoms are observed since we are aware that this may occur. However, in a case where the pain does appear, that is the most characteristic symptom, especially when it is associated with the menstrual cycle in the way that has been explained previously in this article. At that point, it is necessary to go to the doctor to undergo a series of tests.
These tests can be very specific or not very specific. These tests attempt to discover if there is endometriosis or not and where the areas of implantation of the cells are. In other words, where the endometrial cells have been “relocated.” In this way, possible treatments can be determined.
Pelvic exams are normally carried out (they are typically conducted during gynecological check ups that women regularly undergo; it is a way for gynecologists to check the integrity and health of the female genital organs and during this exam, the vulva, the vagina, the uterus as well as the cervix, the Fallopian tubes, the ovaries, the bladder and the rectum are all examined. This includes the exploration of the genitals manually and the introduction of a speculum to obtain samples of cytology) or rather transvaginal sonography (by using this technique carried out with an ultrasound device that detects the signal emitted by a probe introduced into the vagina of the woman, her genital organs are examined including the uterus, the ovaries and the cervix) or pelvic laparoscopy (a surgical technique with which we can examine the pelvic organs with a visualization instrument called a laparoscope. This is carried out under general anesthesia, and the doctor makes a surgical incision a couple of centimeters wide in the skin below the belly button. Next, carbon dioxide is blown into the abdominal cavity to help the surgeon see the organs more easily and finally, a laparoscope is inserted, which is an instrument that is similar to a small telescope on a flexible tube so that the doctor can observe the area).
The treatment that medicine proposes is going to depend on a series of factors:
- The patient’s age
- The severity or intensity of the symptoms (if there is or is not a lot of pain, cramps, etc.) and of disease itself. In other words, how far it has extended and what physically causes its anomalous implantation.
- If the woman desires to bear children in the future or not.
- If the woman has reached menopause. At this point and from the official medical viewpoint, there are a series of measures that may be taken that could be considered to be more radical, and from our perspective, we never advise taking this measure as we will see later on in this article.
Among the habitual measures taken to control pains of a cramping nature, antiinflammatory drugs are used, more commonly known as ibuprofen or naproxen and other antiinflammatory drugs that are not steroids. If it is necessary, stronger pain killers may be used.
In addition, in modern traditional medicine hormone treatments are commonly used, although we prefer other more natural options. Traditional hormone treatment has to do with the use of birth control pills, since they stop the menstrual cycle and its hormonal influence on endometriosis. All this does is simply alleviate the symptoms of the problem, it does not cure the disease.
A more specific hormone treatment is directed at halting the production of estrogen by the ovaries, causing a state that is similar to menopause, but it has the inconvenient side effect of giving rise to menopause’s symptoms as well.
We believe that hormonal treatments using birth control pills are too aggressive and that they cause too many damaging side effects to be considered effective, especially when taking into account that they are not going to actually cure the cause behind the symptoms: the disease. However, these treatments can partially or completely alleviate symptoms in many patients for years. The final decision is obviously in your hands.
And finally, as a last resort, modern medicine typically uses surgery to surgically remove the areas where endometriosis occurs. This is normally recommended in cases of extreme pain that is not improved by using other types of treatments. This can include:
- Laparotomy or pelvic laparoscopy, which is a method that has been mentioned to diagnose endometriosis and at the same time surgically remove the implants and the scar tissue (adhesions).
- Hysterectomy to surgically remove the uterus (the womb) and even a total hysterectomy (womb, ovaries and Fallopian tubes as well). Traditional medicine proposes what is known as the “emptying” when severe symptoms are observed and as long as the woman does not wish to have children in the future. One or both ovaries may be removed, but the current policy of a preventative nature in traditional medicine indicates that if both ovaries are not removed at the time of the hysterectomy, the woman’s symptoms may reappear.
At any rate, we believe that radical surgery should only be considered in the most extreme cases, since there are wonderful therapeutic alternative possibilities in existence and there are numerous studies that are indicate how the complete disappearance of these organs causes an enormous organic imbalance of irreversible consequences, which furthermore must be treated to help the body adapt to this definitive lack.
Endometriosis could give rise to problems when trying to get pregnant. Not all women, especially those with mild endometriosis, will be infertile. Laparoscopy used to eliminate scar tissue associated with this affliction can help to improve your chances of becoming pregnant. If this is not the case, you should think about the possibility of undergoing treatments that help to fight infertility.
Other complications of endometriosis include:
- Chronic or prolonged pelvic pain that interferes with social or work activities.
- Large cysts in the pelvis (called endometrioma) that can break (rupture).
In very few cases, the endometriosis implants may cause obstruction in the gastrointestinal or urinary tract, but this is very rare.
On very rare occasions, cancer may develop in areas of endometriosis after menopause.
- Angelica sinensis, commonly known as “dong quai”, “dang gui” or ginseng is a plant that has been used for centuries in traditional chinese medicine to alleviate and combat gynecological disorders, such as endometriosis, since it contains natural phytoestrogens that act as female hormone regulators.
- Ginseng can be found in powder form, in capsules, dye and even in small pieces (that must be cooked before being consumed). In general, it should be taken twice a day, preferably on an empty stomach. It is generally recommended to take a break from this treatment for one week every 30 days.
- If you take ginseng in capsule form, the norm is to ingest a minimum of two capsules and a maximum of four per day (for capsules that are 500 mg each). If you take it in powder form, you should dissolve one tablespoon of the powder (1 gram approximately) in water or juice and drink it twice per day.
- Chamomile infusions (Chamaemelum nobile). Another popular remedy that is more readily available than ginseng is a chamomile infusion, though this remedy is a bit lighter. To make the infusion, take 2 tablespoons of chamomile and add them to a cup of water, which should be boiled for 5 minutes. Drink this tea any time you feel pain.
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale). Drink one cup of this ginger infusion when you are feeling nauseated as a symptom of endometriosis. This infusion is prepared with 3 tablespoons of ginger for every cup of water that you boil for five minutes.
- The technique of Acupressure is also useful. This is done by applying pressure to the spot that is five centimeters from the ankle bone and at the base where the thumb and index finger bones meet. Apply the strongest pressure you possibly can until your skin gets pink and it feels very hot but not burning.