Within the female reproductive system, there are many processes that may go awry and one such disorder is endometriosis. In this disorder, endometrial cells normally contained within the uterus grow outside of the uterus. The endometrium is the inner mucosal layer of the uterus that sheds every month during menstruation. Endometriosis is influenced by reproductive hormones, mainly estrogen, which causes the symptoms to worsen around the monthly cycle. Endometriosis is a highly inflammatory disease and can thus cause a significant amount of pain. The only way to accurately diagnose endometriosis is by laparoscopic surgery, however, this is highly invasive and often not a desired option for many women. However, if you are experiencing the most common symptoms of endometriosis (see below) of have already been diagnosed with the condition, Denver Holistic Medicine is here to help you with gentler, less invasive and pharmaceutical-free options.
Figure 1 – A comparative view of the normal uterus versus endometriosis.
Figure 2 – Common sites where the endometrium can grow towards and attach.
Figure 3 – Endometriosis may lead to scarring.
Figure 4 – Endometriosis may lead to endometrial hyperplasia.
Figure 5 –Biopsy of the endometrium.
As the inflammation grows it attaches itself to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the bowel, the bladder, ligaments and other areas within the abdominal cavity. Please call Denver Holistic Medicine for more information if you have any of these symptoms:
- Heavy bleeding during period,
- Menstruation accompanied with pain and large clots
- Abnormally long and heavy bleeding during menstruation
- Lower back pain, abdominal pain and burning sensation
- Painful sexual intercourse – dyspareunia
- Pain upon urination or defecation
- Dysmenorrhea – painful bleeding during menstruation
- Swollen ovaries (upon examination)
- Swollen abdomen
The following risk factors can contribute to developing endometriosis:
- High estrogen levels
- Low progesterone levels
- Genetic predisposition (i.e. mother, sister, grandmother with endometriosis)
- High level of dietary meat
- Exposure to radiation
- Nulliparity – never given birth
- Abnormality in the immune system
- Exposure to environmental toxins
- Benign uterine fibroids.
As abnormal endometrial tissue spreads it forms adhesions which can lead to scarring in the surrounding tissue. This can be a primary (but not the only) cause of infertility in women suffering from endometriosis. Causes of endometriosis include:
- Retrograde menstruation →
- Most common cause
- Menstrual blood containing endometrial cells flows back through the fallopian tubes into the pelvic cavity versus exiting through the vagina
- The blood then sticks in places within the pelvic cavity and continues to proliferate when stimulated by hormonal factors
- Embryonic cell growth →
- Cells lining the abdominal wall and pelvic cavity turn into endometrial tissue
- Surgical scar implantation →
- Most common post a C-section
- Endometrial cells transport →
- Blood vessels or tissue fluid (lymphatics) transport the blood through the body
- Immune system disorders →
- The body is unable to recognize foreign tissue due to immune system depression, allowing for endometrial cells to grow outside the body of the uterus without being reabsorbed
The disease process for endometriosis can be very complex and can lead to infertility. If you feel you have any of the signs or symptoms, please call Denver Holistic Medicine so we can guide you in our natural approach to treating endometriosis.