Can endometriosis attack other organs? An expert tells you all about it!

To mark the Endometriosis Awareness Week, let's look into whether this condition can hamper the health of your other organs.
Uterus sarcoma
A woman''s uterine health is important. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Aruna Muralidhar Published: 9 Mar 2022, 12:00 pm IST
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Endometriosis is a mysterious condition that affects many women. It may affect about 10 percent of women in the reproductive age group, starting as early as adolescence. And this Endometriosis Awareness Week, let’s talk about an intriguing aspect about the condition.

Sadly, it is a chronic disease and can affect the quality of life for many women. It is not an infection or cancer and is certainly not contagious. The paradox of this condition is that mild disease may cause severe symptoms and severe disease may cause mild or no symptoms at all.

Awareness about endometriosis is a must. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What are the symptoms of endometriosis?

The symptoms of endometriosis are many. The common symptoms are:

* Pain before the period,
* Pelvic pain and heaviness
* Deep pelvic pain during sex
* Heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding
* Bloating
* Pain when passing motions or urine
* Inability to conceive

The symptoms depend on the organ of involvement. For example, if there are bladder deposits, there may be blood in the urine during the period.

What causes endometriosis?

Although many theories have been proposed about the cause, the oft-quoted theory is that there is a backflow of the menstrual blood during the period through the tubes with deposition of the endometrial blood and glands in various sites of the pelvis and abdomen.

These glands respond to the hormones which regulate the menstrual cycle which in turn cause the symptoms of endometriosis.

It is indeed intriguing that endometriosis can affect almost any organ in the pelvic and abdominal region. Research on surgical data shows that the most common site is the ovary followed by the abdominal soft tissue.

Also Read: PCOS and endometriosis are NOT the same! Know the difference

This condition can have various common symptoms which you may tend to ignore. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The urinary bladder and various sites of the intestines also can be affected. Interestingly, these glands show an affinity to scars such as caesarean section scar and the episiotomy (cut given during vaginal delivery) scar.

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Also, pelvic sites are common, extra-pelvic sites are also involved in about 3-4 percent. These include the vulva (private parts of a woman), vagina (the birth canal or the front passage) and the cervix (neck of the womb).

Interestingly, although rarely, the glands can reach the adrenal glands (seated on the kidneys), lungs, skins, and even the brain.

The retrograde menstruation theory does not explain this wide spread of endometriosis in the body. One other theory says that it may result from spread through blood and lymph vessels.

Also Read: Battling endometriosis? Make sure you don’t fall prey to these myths

How to diagnose endometriosis?

Due to the varied symptoms of endometriosis, it may be difficult to diagnose the condition early. Hence, the healthcare provider must be aware of the relation of the symptom to the period and also run the appropriate investigations.

Ultrasound may not pick up endometriosis unless there is an endometriotic cyst in the ovary. However, if done in a centre where there is expertise in dealing with cases of endometriosis, early diagnosis can be achieved.

This chronic disease does not have a definitive cure. The management would depend on the symptoms and is aimed towards the relief of the ailing symptom.

Awareness of the condition, early diagnosis and management may slow or even halt the natural progression of the disease. The burden of the symptoms and the effect on the quality of life can be improved too.

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About the Author

Dr Aruna Muralidhar, Senior Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Fortis La Femme Hospital, Richmond Road, Bengaluru ...Read More

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