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Traveling Cells:
Dealing with Endometriosis

What is endometriosis?
What causes endometriosis?
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
How can my doctor tell if I have endometriosis?
What is the treatment for endometriosis?

What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition in which cells that normally live in your uterus start to grow outside the uterus in other parts of your belly. It can cause pain in your lower belly, especially during your period. It can also cause infertility. About 1 in 100 women have endometriosis. back to top

What causes endometriosis?
No one knows for sure what causes endometriosis. It probably happens when the fluid from your period backs up into the fallopian tubes and out into the pelvis. The tiny pieces of the lining of your uterus land on the pelvic organs, such as the ovaries and the bladder, and start to grow there.

Each month, hormones make the normal lining of the uterus start to grow. The implants of endometriosis also grow. When the lining of your uterus is shed during your period, the implants of endometriosis also bleed. Blood inside the belly is extremely irritating. This is why girls with endometriosis have pain during each period.

Mild endometriosis is often just tiny implants on the ovaries, bladder, or other organs. More severe cases can involve larger implants, scarring, and endometriomas. An endometrioma is an implant on the ovary that bleeds into itself each month, steadily growing in size. back to top

What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
The most common symptoms of endometriosis are: How can my doctor tell if I have endometriosis?
Your doctor needs to know for sure that you have endometriosis before treating you with medication or surgery. The only way to know positively is to do surgery to check for the growths. This can be either laparoscopy or regular surgery. Usually, it's the pain or the infertility that leads your doctor to perform the surgery. Sometimes, surgery is done because an ultrasound shows an ovarian cyst that might be an endometrioma. back to top

What is the treatment for endometriosis?
Endometriosis should be treated only if it is causing symptoms. The treatment can be either medication or surgery. Here are some of the possible treatments:
  • Birth control pills that are taken continuously. The Pill is usually taken for 28 days each cycle. Normally, the first 21 pills contain the active ingredients and the last 7 pills are just sugar pills. You get your period while you are taking the sugar pills. Taking birth control pills continuously means that you take the active pills every day. As long as you take the active pills, you will not have a period. This treatment almost always works for relieving painful periods.
  • Danazol. This medicine is related to the male hormone testosterone. The treatment can be taken for 6 months at a time. It works very well to relieve the symptoms from endometriosis, but it has many side effects, including weight gain, acne, hot flashes, and less sexual desire.
  • GnRH agonists. These medications act on the pituitary gland to make your body think it is going through menopause. They work very well in treating endometriosis, but almost everybody who takes them has side effects, including weight gain, acne, hot flashes, and less sexual desire. GnRH agonists can only be taken for 6 months at a time.
  • Surgery. Surgery is the best treatment when there are endometriomas, large implants, or a lot of scarring. During surgery, your doctor removes all visible implants of endometriosis and repairs any scarred areas. back to top
Last Modified Date: 4/4/2001
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