Endometriosis is a benign, chronic disorder, affecting about one in ten women of reproductive age. The reasons for endometriosis are not unequivocally clear yet.
What happens in the body when you have endometriosis?
In endometriosis, tissue very similar to uterine lining (endometrium) grows outside the uterine cavity. The tissue responds to hormones throughout the menstrual cycle just like normal uterine lining would, often causing severe pain and cramps during menstrual bleeding. About one third of women experience difficulty conceiving.
Symptoms decrease or even vanish entirely in a woman’s life when she does not have a menstrual cycle, e.g. during pregnancy, when taking the contraceptive pill, or after menopause.
The strength of symptoms does not reflect the extend of endometriosis. Almost half of all women with endometriosis have no or hardly any symptoms. Occurrence and strength of symptoms is predominantly determined by the exact location of endometriomas in the body.
Basically, every organ may be affected. Most frequently, endometriomas form in organs located in the lesser pelvis, such as Fallopian tubes and ovaries or in the recto-uterine pouch, an extension of the peritoneal cavity between the rectum and the posterior wall of the uterus.
Diagnosis of endometriosis
Because symptoms vary significantly, diagnosis is often tricky and may take a long time.
In addition to thorough anamnesis, a gynecological examination is necessary. However, only laparoscopy can provide certainty. Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure where a camera is used to look inside the abdominal cavity. If the growths are not visible, a biopsy may be taken to determine the diagnosis.
Therapeutic options for endometriosis patients
First things first: therapy is not always necessary. As stated above, not every patients experiences problems. In these cases, diagnosis of endometriosis is often a “coincidence” and does not require further action. Depending on discomfort, size and location of endometriomas, patient age and desire for children, there is a range of different therapeutic options to choose from.
For pain relief, several drugs and hormones are effective. The latter are not suitable, however, if a patient is planning for pregnancy. Surgery to remove endometriomas is another option. Quite frequently, a combination of different options is chosen.
Many women benefit from adjuvant methods: Regular exercise, stress reduction and adjusted diet don’t help in every single case, but can’t cause any harm either.
Orthomolecular approaches in particular have been in the focus of many studies in recent years. Because endometriosis is associated with increased inflammation and oxidative stress, a nutrition rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidative micronutrients contributes to improved wellbeing. New on the market are special micronutrient preparations designed to meet the special requirements of women with endometriosis.