Endometriosis is a chronic disease that occurs when the tissue that lines the uterus, called the endometrium, grows outside of the uterus, usually in the abdomen, on the ovaries or in the fallopian tubes. Endometriosis affects between eight and 15 percent of women and is most commonly diagnosed in women in their 20s and early 30s. The disease can affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant and may slightly increase the chance of developing certain cancers, including breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
Endometriosis causes The cause of endometriosis is unknown, but there are expert theories that attribute the disease to genetics, a weakened immune system and environmental toxins, among other factors.
Endometriosis symptoms Some women with endometriosis do not experience symptoms and may not know they suffer from the disease. Others may have mild symptoms or experience severe pain with heavy, painful periods, pain during intercourse, fatigue, heavy bleeding and infertility.
Endometriosis diagnosis/tests If you experience unusual pelvic pain, talk to your doctor who may order imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to check for pelvic diseases. To diagnose endometriosis, your doctor will need to examine the inside of the pelvis and abdomen, most likely during a laparoscopy, an out-patient procedure which involves inserting a thin viewing instrument into the abdomen and removing areas of endometriosis to have biopsied.
Endometriosis treatment There are several treatment options for endometriosis, depending on the severity of the condition, the woman’s age and whether or not she intends to get pregnant in the future. Treatment may include pain medication, such as aspirin and acetaminophen or prescription drugs; hormonal treatment to stop ovulation, such as oral contraceptives; surgery to remove or destroy growths; and alternative treatments, including traditional Chinese medicine and immune therapy.
Endometriosis prevention Since the exact cause of endometriosis is unknown, there’s no known way to prevent it. Women who have given birth seem to be less likely to develop the disease.
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