Treating Endometriosis

December 3, 2008

Making Headlines

Earlier this year sufferers of endometriosis received some much needed attention concerning their condition with the news that two stars of ‘Dancing with the Stars' were diagnosed with the disease. Julianne Hough underwent surgery and Lacey Schwimmer is being treated with medication for endometriosis.

Women Are Taking Things Seriously

More than five million women in the United States are dealing with this far-reaching and often misunderstood disease. Worldwide, the number is in excess of 70 million women and girls who have endometriosis - a number which exceeds those with breast cancer, AIDS or many other well-known diseases. In spite of the massive numbers of female victims of this disease, it is not well publicized. However, the tide is changing as methods of detection and diagnosis have improved, thus revealing more cases. There is more public awareness than ever before and women are taking pelvic pain seriously instead of pushing it into a back corner.

What Is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is not contagious and it is not cancer. It is a biological malfunction within the reproductive organs and pelvis of a woman, which often starts with painful periods and abdominal pain, feeling run down and general malaise. As it progresses, the symptoms become more severe. The disease is the displacement of endometrial-like tissues outside of the uterus. The endometrium is the inner lining of the uterus which is shed during menses if there is no pregnancy. Endometrium is very sensitive hormonally, and since it isn't flushed, it remains in the pelvis where it becomes thicker. Blood is an inflammatory to the lining of the abdomen and when it sits there it causes pain, scarring and adhesions. As a result, not only are organs "glued" together, but the conception process is often affected negatively.

The Great Debate

Since nobody really seems to know what causes endometriosis, the treatment options are often debated among health professionals. Treatment is prescribed in accordance with how severe the disease is and the intensity and severity of the symptoms. Several considerations are taken into account when prescribing treatment. These include type and severity of symptoms, the age of the woman and whether she wants to become pregnant, as well as the length, side-effects and cost of treatment.

Hormone Treatment or Surgery

Estrogen, the hormone continually produced in a woman's body, surges each month in order to thicken the uterine lining in preparation for pregnancy. If there is no fertilization of the egg, then the level drops and the lining is sloughed out. One type of treatment used for endometriosis is hormone drug therapy which, when used in milder cases of endometriosis, stops the production of estrogen in the body. As a rule though, surgery is often needed to arrive at healing.

Observation or Combined Treatments

Some doctors prefer to observe the situation and only prescribe analgesics or NSAIDs for pain. In milder cases this can be effective. There is also the option of using a combined treatment of drugs, observation and surgery to help a woman through this disease. Thankfully there are more and better methods of treating endometriosis than in the past and, consequently, hope for women to be free of this painful disease.

 

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