By Odelia Thomas (Instagram @she.is.lotus)

After sharing my journey with endometriosis, I have had questions about what it really is, so in today’s post, we will talk a little bit about what it is.

Why is so little known about a disease that affects an estimated 1 in 10 women worldwide? Why do so few women know what is causing their symptoms? Why do so many doctors not know what this disease it or how to treat it? What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis (en-doe-me-tree-O-sis) is a painful disease where tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus (called the endometrium) grows outside of your uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes, the tissue lining your pelvis and other organs. There have even be reported cases of it found in the brain.

As you can imagine, because this tissue acts as endometrial tissue would, it thickens, breaks down and results in small bleeding inside of the pelvis with each menstrual cycle. This leads to cysts, inflammation, swelling and scarring of the normal tissue surrounding the endometrial implants. This scar tissue and adhesions can make organs to stick together. As such, endometriosis can cause severe pain, particularly during menstruation and sex, infertility and other symptoms such as a heavy flow, gastrointestinal problems.

A classification system for endometriosis has been developed by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM):

The stage of endometriosis is based on the location, amount, depth and size of the endometrial tissue. Specific criteria include:

  • The extent of the spread of the tissue
  • The involvement of pelvic structures in the disease
  • The extent of pelvic adhesions
  • The blockage of the fallopian tubes

The stage of endometriosis does not determine the degree of pain that someone is in or the severity of their symptoms. A woman can have stage 1 endometriosis and be in more pain that a woman with stage 4 endometriosis.

There are a few tests that your doctor can do to check for physical clues of endo. These include:

  • Pelvic exam – your doctor manually feels areas in your pelvis for abnormalities
  • Ultrasound – can identify cysts associated with endometriosis
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – gives surgeon detailed information about the size and location of endometrial implants
  • Laparoscopy –a surgery that helps your surgeon to view the inside of your abdomen via a tiny incision near your navel and inserting a tiny camera to locate signs of endometriosis. It is currently the only sure way to accurately diagnose endometriosis.

Now, you may be asking, “what on earth causes this disease?” There are several different theories on what causes it and more research is needed to pinpoint the exact cause so that a cure can be developed. Existing treatment options will be based on what is available in your country, but the best option is excision surgery to remove endometrial tissue from your pelvis and surrounding organs.

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