By Brandi M. Seals
Endometriosis affects millions of women to varying degrees. Some of which will find themselves infertile due to the disease.
Endometriosis is the growth of tissue similar to the lining of the uterus found in other parts of the body, mainly in the abdominal cavity. Endometriosis has been found on the uterus, ovaries, tubes, ligaments, ureters, bowel, bladder, and other peritoneal surfaces.
Endometriosis can cause severe pain. The pain depends in part on where the endometriosis is and how much a woman may have.
The tissue surrounding the endometriosis can begin to break down. The body will try to cover this raw area with scar tissue. This scar tissue can lead to problems. Advanced endometriosis has been known to result in stuck together organs. Organs that are designed to float within the pelvis can become stuck together. Any movement of those structures can result in enormous pain.
Symptoms of endometriosis include:
Severe menstrual cramps
Pelvic pain not during menstruation
Painful bowel movements
Pain with exercise
Painful pelvic exams
Painful and frequent urination
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
PID is a bacterial infection of the upper female genital tract that causes swelling and pain. It affects the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries.
PID is caused by bacteria. A number of bacteria can cause PID but it is generally caused by the sexually transmitted diseases Chlamydia and gonorrhea.
Symptoms of PID include:
Lower abdominal and pelvic pain
Vaginal discharge or bleeding.
PID can cause complications such as inflammation surrounding the liver, chronic pelvic pain, and occasionally death. However, only about 1 in 4 women will experience complications. PID is also the single most important risk factor for ectopic pregnancy and one of the most common causes of female infertility.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is very common. It affects about 10% of women and is a leading cause of infertility in women. PCOS is a hormonal disorder triggered by insulin resistance. PCOS can keep a women from ovulating and is responsible for a number of symptoms.
PCOS symptoms include:
Irregular or infrequent menstrual periods
Increased growth of facial and body hair
Thinning hair on the head
Build up of small cysts in the ovaries
PCOS is treated in a number of ways. Generally speaking the medication only targets specific symptoms of PCOS, not the underlying insulin resistance that caused the disease in the first place.
Treatments for PCOS
Oral contraceptives are the traditional way to regulate the cycle of a woman with PCOS. The pill is used because they require women to menstruate regularly (making them shed the endometrial lining which reduces the risk of endometrial cancer). Obviously those using oral contraceptives will not become pregnant if the pill is taken properly. So those who wish to try for children must seek alternative treatment.
Anti-androgens, such as spironolactone, block the effect of male hormones in women. They can help reduce unwanted hair growth and acne.
Insulin resistance treatment is now used to treat PCOS. Doctors have shifted their focus to treating the insulin resistance in hope that the change will relieve the symptoms of PCOS rather than just treating the symptoms of the disease.
Some women with PCOS do ovulate occasionally; others do not ovulate at all. Luckily, there are oral and injectable medications that can help stimulate ovulation.
Premature Ovarian Failure (POF)
POF is basically menopause before the age of 40. POF is defined as the stoppage of the menstrual cycle with high levels of gonadotropins and low levels of estrogen before age 40.
There is currently no known effective therapy for those with POF.
Fibroid tumors are non cancerous growths in the uterus, cervix or ovaries. They generally go unnoticed until they are found by a doctor during a gynecological exam.
Most fibroids have no symptoms but approximately 25% of women will experience abnormal bleeding, pain during menstruation, and have a swollen abdomen. Most of those with fibroid will still be able to conceive children.
Luteal Phase Defect (LPD)
LPD occurs when the uterine lining does not develop adequately either because of inadequate progesterone stimulation or because of the inability of the uterine lining to respond to progesterone stimulation. LPD may prevent the implantation of the embryo or cause an early abortion.