Many women in the United States suffer from a condition known as endometriosis , a problem with the uterine tissue that can arise during the childbearing years. Although the condition is not typically dangerous and may not lead to symptoms, many women can experience pain and other serious complications as a result of the condition.
Every month, a woman’s body releases specific hormones that cause the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, to thicken in preparation for the implantation of a fertilized egg. Once prepared, the endometrium acts as a nourishing layer upon which the egg can begin to grow. If the egg is not fertilized, the endometrium is shed during a woman’s menstrual period to prepare for another cycle.
Women with endometriosis have endometrial tissue that escapes the uterus and grows outside of it during the menstrual cycle. Just like the normal endometrium inside of the uterus, the “implants” are stimulated to grow and break down at the same times, getting thicker and breaking down along with the normal tissue. Since these implants are outside of the uterus, however, they cannot exit the body as they break down and bleed, and instead, will often become quite irritated and painful. In many cases, they will form scar tissue or cysts, which can inhibit conception.
The most common symptoms associated with endometriosis include:
- Pain in the area of the implants, which will differ from woman to woman; pain can occur in the lower back, rectum, or lower abdomen, especially during ovulation and during a menstrual period
- Abnormal or intermittent bleeding, which can include heavy bleeding, or spotting and bleeding in between periods
- Infertility, which can often be the only symptom that women experience
Although the cause of endometriosis is not known, there are therapies that can help with the condition. To find an experienced specialty physician in the San Jose area, contact Good Samaritan Hospital at (408) 559-2011.