White illustration of endometriosis on a blue background - Libresse

Most women will have heard of endometriosis but what is it exactly?

Well, it’s a painful condition where tissue in the body that acts like the endometrium (the lining of the womb) is found outside the uterus. Basically, this tissue is somewhere it’s not meant to be. It can end up in the ovaries and fallopian tubes, inside the lining of the abdomen and even in the bowel or bladder. Endometriosis affects roughly one in 10 women of reproductive age, which equates to approximately 176 million females around the world [1].

Endometriosis symptoms include pelvic and abdominal pain and heavy or painful periods. Certain factors put you at a greater risk of developing endometriosis. Like a history of pelvic infection. Or having a medical condition that prevents the normal passage of menstrual flow out of the body. Or a history of endometriosis among female relatives such as your mum, aunt or sister [2].

Endometriosis can be extremely painful. When the body tries to shed the misplaced tissue during the process of menstruation, it has nowhere to go. It’s in the wrong place, and this can result in inflammation and pain, sometimes really bad pain. In some cases it results in scars or cysts.

Unfortunately, endometriosis is also a chronic condition, which means it persists for a long time. But there are ways to manage it so you can get on with your life. If you recognise the symptoms and suspect that you have it, book an appointment with your doctor or gynaecologist to find out more. They’ll explore ways to ease your pain and help you cope with the symptoms.

As for the causes of endometriosis, well, there are few theories. Like retrograde menstruation. That’s menstrual blood containing endometrial cells that flow back through the fallopian tubes, then into the pelvic cavity, instead of out of the body. These cells then stick to the pelvic walls and organs where they grow and continue to thicken and bleed over the course of each menstrual cycle. Other possible reasons include genetics and certain toxins in the environment [3].


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