Endometriosis – An Overview of an All Too Common Condition

Reproductive disorders are more common today than ever before. Endometriosis is among the most common disorders of the female reproductive system. This condition involves the uterine composition as well as the other reproductive organs. In this case, endometrial issue or the typical internal lining of the uterus is located outside of the uterus, an issue that affects roughly five million women of childbearing age in the United States alone. The condition is most prevalent in females ages 30 to 40; however, it can affect women of any age, including those in their teens. In association with the condition itself, roughly 40 percent of individuals affected by the disease will also experience some infertility to some extent.

Many elements of the disease are still not understood, including infertility associated with the condition. Current research suggests that there is a link between barrenness and endometriosis due to scar tissue and obstructions in the fallopian tubes that are caused by the condition. The scar tissue can create an obstruction in the tubes that prevents the egg and sperm from meeting or that limits the progression of the egg through the tube. In this case, the result is typically an abdominal, cervical, or tubal pregnancy.

Another concern that is becoming more prevalent with additional research on the condition is the possibility of developing a defect of the luteal phase. This issue arises as diminished progesterone levels or incomplete progression of the lining in the uterus following ovulation. The condition causes an environment in which implantation of the egg is difficult. Studies suggest that the a defect of the luteal phase causes an increased rate of miscarriage in women with endometriosis, being as high as 36 percent in women affected by the condition versus 15 percent in the typical population. Additional research is being conducted to determine the connection between endometriosis and normal ovulation as well as the function of prolactin on the condition itself.

Symptoms

A number of symptoms are common in women who have the condition; however, not all women experience them. Common symptoms include:

  • Painful cramping during the monthly cycle, also known as dysmenorrhea
  • Pain associated with sexual intercourse, or dyspareunia
  • Heavy bleeding during periods or atypical spotting between periods, otherwise known as dysfunctional uterine bleeding
  • Infertility (In roughly 30 percent of cases, the only symptom of the condition is infertility.)

Diagnosis

Confirmation of the condition involves several examinations and tests, such as:

  • A comprehensive evaluation of the history of menstruation, symptoms, and cycles in the patient
  • An inclusive pelvic exam
  • A laparoscopy that involves a thorough evaluation of the abdomen, ovaries, and other reproductive structures

Treatment

Treatment is typically advised for women who wish to try to become pregnant. In these women, treatment is typically advised a focus on:

  • Clearing any existing obstructions in the fallopian tubes as well as removing any existing scar tissue that may deter conception, insemination, and advancement of the fertilized eggs down the fallopian tubes
  • Preventing the disease from progressing by manipulating hormone production to limit the further development of obstructions and scar tissue in the reproductive organs