Menstruation is not a breeze for everyone. In fact, many women just endure menstrual pain in silence assuming it is normal. To top it, conditions/ symptoms related to period pain are often misunderstood for other conditions and even misdiagnosed by medical professionals.
One such condition is endometriosis, which seems to be extremely common and affects 1 in 10 women. Many of us might have heard the term, but do we really know what it is?
Let’s understand this troublemaker better!
What is endometriosis?
‘Endometrio-sis’ refers to a condition of the ’endometrium’, which is the tissue that lines the uterus. This tissue is required to house and nourish a baby, if and when it is formed. This lining is shed (what we see as menstrual blood) during menstruation and re-built in the next round.
In women with endometriosis, a tissue similar to the endometrium develops outside of the uterus, usually on the other reproductive organs in the pelvis or even in the abdominal cavity in some cases. It becomes troublesome because this tissue is also under the hormonal influence just like the endometrium. That is, it ruptures and re-forms every menstrual cycle! Now, you can imagine the chaos this can trigger.
Since there is no channel (like the vagina) for it to leave the body, internal bleeding can happen in the pelvis and abdomen, many a time leading to inflammation and scarring of the normal tissues around it, all of which lead to period pain and irregular periods.
If it is attached to other organs, their functions may also get disrupted, making the diagnosis a messy affair. Moreover, regular excessive bleeding (as these tissues are hormone-responsive as the uterus) can lead to anemia and can make things complicated when invisible (internal bleeding in the abdominal or pelvic cavity).
OMG! Why does this even happen?
Although the exact cause of endometriosis is unknown, some theories on the probable causes have been proposed, as listed below.
• Genetic- Though it is believed that certain ethnic groups are more prone to this condition than others, there are not enough data to support this claim.
- Recent research suggests chemical changes in the DNA of women with
endometriosis, hindering normal gene expression in response to hormones.
However, further research is necessary to ascertain this correlation.