Endometriosis occurs when tissue that is similar to (but not the same as) the lining of the uterus (endometrium) is found outside of the uterus or pelvic cavity. (Note: There are many biomolecular differences between the lesions of endometriosis and endometrial tissue). Currently, laparoscopic surgery is the only accurate way to diagnose Endometriosis. There are many different shapes, colours, forms and presentations of Endometriosis, making it tricky to diagnose without specialist advanced training & experienced eyes.
These rogue tissues can implant into other organs and the abdominal wall (peritoneum). They can grow to form nodules, cysts, lesions and adhesions which can potentially disrupt the proper function of the affected organs. Endometriosis may present as superficial peritoneal patches (clear or pale patches or plaques) or as more significant implants referred to as deep infiltrating endometriosis (DIE) - This is considered the most difficult to diagnose and excise (remove).
Some specialists believe that the endometrial cells have the same menstrual changes outside the uterus as what happens inside the uterus, sometimes resulting in the lesions bleeding at the same time as when a person is having their period- however this is yet to be proven. Lesions are often active at any time of the month and can cause pain and symptoms outside of menstruation also. Endometriosis is characterised by strong pain, heavy bleeding and nagging fatigue but many other symptoms can also be present, particularly within the gastrointestinal tract. The pain can be sharp, dull, crippling, knife-like, radiating, or nerve pain, depending on where the endometriosis is located.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis doesn't discriminate- it can affect anyone who has been assigned female at birth. This includes teenagers, people of reproductive age, post-menopausal people, those who have had hysterectomies, and transgender or non-binary people. In some rarer cases, even young people (assigned female at birth) who have not yet had their first period have also been found to have endometriosis. Shockingly, there has even been documented cases of endometriosis found within foetuses, and also some rare cases involving males, which further disproves the earlier assumptions (eg. Sampson's Theory) that endometriosis is a result of retrograde menstruation.
Endometriosis has been found in many areas including the belly button, fallopian tubes, peritoneum, bowel, bladder, rectum, and vagina. In rarer/more severe cases, endometriosis can develop outside of the pelvic cavity, and can form lesions and adhesions in the diaphragm & lungs (thoracic endometriosis), gastrointestinal tract, pulmonary system, urinary tract, central nervous system, and in extremely rare cases, it has even been located within the brain.
This further illustrates that Endometriosis is not just a reproductive disease, but rather a whole-body disease. See Symptoms
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