The endometrium is a special type of tissue that lines the inside of the uterus. It goes through a monthly cycle in which it thickens in preparation for a pregnancy. If an egg isn’t fertilized, the endometrium is shed in your monthly menstrual period. Then the cycle starts all over again.
Endometriosis develops when endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus on the lining of the abdomen, the ovaries, and fallopian tubes. It may also grow on the outer surface of the uterus, bladder, ureters, intestines, and rectum.
When endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus, it’s still affected by estrogen, which means it goes through the same monthly cycle as tissue inside the uterus. However, when it sheds, it can’t leave the body through the vagina like your menstrual flow. Instead, it’s stuck inside the abdomen.
In some cases, the thickened tissue breaks down and is eliminated by the body. A problem arises when endometrial tissue that’s outside the uterus sheds and doesn’t break down.
When this happens, the endometrial tissue sticks to nearby structures. Endometrial and surrounding tissues can become inflamed, irritated and swollen, which ultimately causes scar tissue, called adhesions, to form.
Pain: The primary symptom of endometriosis is pain. Since the pain is worse before and during the menstrual period, women often mistake it for normal menstrual pain. Endometriosis may cause pain that’s mild, or it may be so severe it’s debilitating. Sometimes it radiates down the back and legs. You may have pain during or after sex, pain in the intestine or lower abdomen, and pain during urination or bowel movements.
Infertility: If the endometrial tissue affects the Fallopian tubes, you may have a hard time getting pregnant.
Urinary and bowel problems: When the endometrial tissue affects the bladder or rectum, you may have a hard time urinating or having a bowel movement.
Heavy menstrual periods: You may have heavy periods or spotting between periods.
The pain caused by endometriosis may be treated with pain medications, hormone therapy to prevent monthly cycles, and surgery. The physicians at The Association for Women’s Health Care can surgically remove areas of endometriosis. In many cases, the surgery is done using a minimally-invasive laparoscope, which requires less recovery time.
Not all of the Association of Women’s Health Care (AWHC) physicians participate in all of the plans listed below. Patients are advised to contact their insurance company before an appointment to verify individual physician participation. *Please note that our insurance plans may change or we may not be accepting certain types of insurance at times, so please contact us at Chicago (312) 726-3917 or Northbrook (847) 498-0690 to check if we take your insurance plan.
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