Endometriosis – a painful condition robbing happiness from millions of Kenyans – Some don’t even know if they have it.
It is estimated about One in every woman between age 15-45 has endometriosis in Kenya. These numbers are based on reported cases only and do not include many more cases that never got an opportunity to see a doctor for a complete endometriosis diagnosis.
What is endometriosis?
To understand exactly what is endometriosis and how it happens, watch the following video. It will make the rest of the article easier to understand and even how natural treatment for endometriosis works.
To understand this, you should have a basic concept about the endometrium or the lining of the uterus from the video above☝.
The endometrium is a tissue layer that lines the inside of your uterus. It thickens over the course of your monthly cycle in preparation for receiving a fertilized egg.
When that doesn’t happen, it sheds off and comes out through the vagina as monthly periods.
Walls of the uterus are called – endometrium. Cells that form the walls of the uterus (endometrium) are called endometrial cells.
From the video above, we found out that endometriosis happens when this tissue that should only cover inside the uterus (womb), starts to grow outside of the uterus.
Uterus = womb – carried the babay/pregnancy
It can happen to other reproductive organs like the ovaries and fallopian tubes. It can go further into pelvis, lungs abdominal organs and even to the brain. Spread beyond the pelvic region is rare, but possible.
👉Ovaries – produced the female egg (ovum).
👉 Fallopian Tubes – Hollow tubes that connects the uterus (womb) and ovaries.
Endometriosis is quite common and a painful health condition and one of the common causes of infertility. Other common complications associated with endometriosis are:
- Painful and heavier periods
- Blocked Fallopian tubes
- Difficulty getting pregnant.
- Organ adhesions
The intensity of symptoms varies among different individuals. According to the Planned Parenthood health center, more than 5 million women in the US are affected by endometriosis.
There’s no absolute cure for endometriosis. However, different management options are available that can ease the symptoms.
What causes endometriosis?
The exact cause of endometriosis remains unclear. There are several theories that suggest what may possibly cause it.
The oldest belief is the ‘theory of retrograde menstruation’, first proposed by a gynecologist John A. Sampson.
According to this theory, your period blood may flow back through your fallopian tubes and leak into the pelvic cavity (the body cavity containing the reproductive organs and bladder).
This menstrual blood contains endometrial cells (cells that line the inside of your uterus) that stick to the pelvic organs.
These displaced cells continue to grow and act like they should inside your womb.
That means over the course of each monthly cycle, these cells will break apart and bleed, just like normal cells inside the uterus.
This is the most logical and popular theory as we saw in the video above
Another theory suggests that hormones may be responsible for transforming the cells lining the interior of your abdomen into endometrial cells.
This is known as the ‘induction theory’ (2). Regardless, most scientists agree with implantation theory – the one on the video above.
Other researchers believe that menstrual blood with endometrial cells may leak into the pelvic cavity through a surgical scar, such as after a C-section. Blood vessels or body fluids may also carry the cells from the uterus to other parts of the body.
Genetics (family history) may also have a large role to play. Your risk of endometriosis becomes much higher with a positive family history.
Environmental toxins such as nickel and dioxin may also lead to endometriosis (3, 4 ).
How is endometriosis diagnosed?
Sometimes, a confirmatory diagnosis may take a while because the similarity of symptoms may confuse it with some other conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), irritable bowel syndrome (IBD), or ovarian cysts.
First of all, a detailed medical history and physical exam are warranted.
Your doctor will ask different questions about your symptoms and if any of your family members have endometriosis.
A manual pelvic exam might be carried out to feel for any scars or cysts.
A transvaginal (through the vagina) or abdominal ultrasound may be required if there is suspicion of endometriosis.
It will help provide a clear image of the scars or cysts associated with endometriosis. However, this can’t provide a sure diagnosis.
Laparoscopy is the only precise diagnostic method to confirm endometriosis done in theater/operation room. A lot of times, it is not necessary but it is the most accurate method of diagnosis.
It’s performed under general anesthesia. Through a small cut on your abdomen, an instrument with a camera is inserted to clearly view the suspected endometrial growths.
A small piece of tissue may also be taken for further investigation in the lab to determine the diagnosis. This is known as a biopsy. During the same procedure, endometriosis can also be treated by removing the growths, avoiding the need for another surgery.
What does endometriosis feel like?
The symptoms of endometriosis vary greatly from one person to another.
Also, you can’t predict the stage of the disease depending on the severity of pain.
Several studies indicate that some women at early stages experience severe debilitating pain, while others with advanced disease barely have any pain.
The most common symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain, frequently linked to the menstrual period.
Although it’s quite normal to experience some cramps during your periods, women with endometriosis typically describe their menstrual cramps to be far worse than usual, almost unbearable.
This pain may even tend to increase over time.
Your periods may become much heavier, and you may notice some spotting between your periods.
You may also experience lower back and abdominal pain that starts a few days before your periods and remains there for several days afterward.
Other common symptoms include painful sex, pain during bowel movements or urination, and infertility.
In fact, difficulty getting pregnant may be the reason why endometriosis is diagnosed in some women.
How Endometriosis is Treated?
Being a painful condition, endometriosis can cause interruptions in your daily activities. Endometriosis can’t be cured completely.
Fortunately, there are some options to manage its symptoms either through natural supplements, pharmaceutical medication or surgery. The choice between treatment options depends on you & your doctor.
Common pharmaceutical over-the-counter drugs include pain relievers like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Endometriosis Hormone Therapy
Endometriosis pain and bleeding can be controlled with supplemental hormones (usually progesterone based). This is specifically for those who don’t wish to conceive any time soon.
Hormone therapy alleviates symptoms by preventing the growth of endometrial tissues and stopping the formation of new endometrial growths outside your womb.
Basically, no monthly periods.
Hormonal therapies include hormonal contraceptives (birth control pills, patches, and vaginal rings), gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists and antagonists, progestin therapy (IUD Mirena), and aromatase inhibitors.
The greatest risk with these drugs is the formation of blood clots that can lead to pulmonary embolism, heart attack or stroke.
You may have to undergo a conservative surgery to manage your condition if you hope to get pregnant. This is known as laparoscopic surgery, in which endometrial growths and lesions are removed while preserving your reproductive organs (uterus and ovaries).
Complete surgical removal of your uterus (hysterectomy) and ovaries (oophorectomy) is only considered as a last resort.
You won’t be able to have a child after that. So, you may need to think and get a second opinion before consenting to such a surgery.
Supplements for Endometriosis
Supplements tend to be slower acting and usually safer than drugs and surgery but have that conversation with your doctor.
Aromatase inhibitors supplements like DIM Supplement can help lessen the pain. It does not stop your menstruations or put you at risk of blood clots like pharmaceutical drugs above.
Foods & Endometriosis
Eating anti-inflammatory foods like Omega – 3-6-9 containing foods and avoiding those that cause inflammation can benefit you in the long run. Avoid refined and processed foods, dairy, caffeine, and alcohol.
How to get pregnant with endometriosis naturally?
Getting pregnant if you have endometriosis can be frustrating. Currently, there’s not enough research that supports the efficacy of natural remedies in increasing a woman’s chance of getting pregnant with endometriosis.
Some supplements like Serrapeptase, Chinese Motherwort, and E-Fong Xi Xian Cao using the right dose may help (Contact us)
Why Does Endometriosis Cause Infertility?
Research shows that almost 50% of women affected by endometriosis have fertility problems. The commonest cause of infertility is Fallopian Tubes blockage due to adhesions and scar tissue inside the tubes.
Same scar tissues may form on the ovaries
What Are the 4 Stages of Endometriosis?
The American Society of Reproductive Medicine divides endometriosis into 4 stages.
This staging is based on the progression of physical characteristics of the disease, and not on the severity of pain or level of infertility.
Stage I is minimal, stage II is mild, stage III is moderate, and stage IV is severe.
Stage IV means identification of extensive deep endometrial growths, often termed as adhesions and large endometrial cysts (endometriomas) in the ovaries.