Endometriosis is a condition in which bits of the tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (endometrium) grow in other parts of the body.
Like the uterine lining, this tissue builds up and sheds in response to monthly hormonal cycles. However, there is no natural outlet for the blood discarded from these implants. Instead, it falls onto surrounding organs, causing swelling and inflammation. This repeated irritation leads to the development of scar tissue and adhesions in the area of the endometrial implants, this is called endometriosis.
Your periods with Endometriosis:
A common symptom of endo is extremely painful and sometimes debilitating periods. Each month the endometriosis cells react in the same way as those in the lining of the womb, building up and then breaking down and bleeding. Whereas the cells in the lining of the womb leave the body as a period, the blood and tissue caused by endometriosis has no way to escape causing pain, inflammation and in some cases scar tissue to form on the organs it is attached too.
You may have heavier periods if you have endo but this is different for everyone and symptoms may flare up several days before you period begins although the degree of pain and inflammation will depend on a number of different factors including how sever your endo is and your diet/ lifestyle.
Your hormones with Endometriosis:
Research suggests that endo is an estrogen dependent disease which means that it thrives of estrogen production. If you have have endo you may find you struggle with:
- Decreased sex drive
- Irregular or abnormal periods
- Bloating and excess water retention
- Breast swelling and tenderness
- Headaches especially before your period begins
- Mood swings (most often irritability and depression)
Your fertility with Endometriosis:
Endometriosis does not necessarily cause infertility but there is an association with fertility problems, although the cause is not fully established. Even with severe endometriosis, natural conception is still possible.
The main factor affecting fertility is your age, as you’re born with your lifetime supply of eggs which periodically mature for fertilisation. Fertility rapidly declines after 38, as egg sacs disappear from your ovaries at an increased rate.
As endo becomes more severe scar tissue (adhesions) becomes increasingly common and this can reduce chances of natural conception. If you have minimal to mild endo you have an almost normal chance of conception but some people with minimal endo are infertile for unknown reasons. If your endo is moderate or severe your chances of natural conception are reduced. This is due to the increased adhesions that can cause complications with conception and can prevent mature or fertilised eggs from travelling down the Fallopian tube.
Endometriosis is estimated to affect 10% of women worldwide . It most commonly strikes between the ages of 25 and 40. Endometriosis has also been found in teenagers but often takes several years before diagnosis.
Your body with Endometriosis:
Endometrial implants are often found on the pelvic organs—the ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, and in the cavity behind the uterus. Occasionally, they are found in other parts of the body including the lungs, arms, and kidneys. Newly formed implants appear as small bumps on the surfaces of the organs and supporting ligaments. Endometriosis is a progressive condition that usually advances slowly, over several years. Doctors rank cases from minimal to severe based on factors such as the number and size of the endometrial implants, their appearance and location, and the extent of the scar tissue and adhesions near endometrial tissue.
If you have endometriosis you might find that you’re often fatigued, are prone to water retention and swelling in your legs, stomach and other parts of your body and struggle with irritable and low mood. A lot of people with endo also struggle with ‘brain fog’ and reducing gluten in you diet can help to combat this. You might also experience inflammation and pain in your joints which many people describe as being similar to ‘growing pains’.