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Living With Endometriosis: Causes and Treatment

Published | 4 min read

Endometriosis is a painful condition that affects millions of woman worldwide. Learn more about what causes them and how you can treat them.

Endometriosis causes and treatment 1

Living With Endometriosis: Causes and Treatment

Endometriosis refers to a condition in which tissue similar to the uterine lining grows outside the uterus. 

It affects some 190 million women and girls of reproductive age all over the world. 

It causes severe, disruptive pain during periods, sex, bowel movements or urination. It also causes pelvic pain, abdominal bloating, nausea, fatigue, and sometimes infertility. 

Depression, anxiety, and eating disorders may also result partly due to the chronic pain that accompanies this condition. Researchers studying this association found a gene variant common to both endometriosis and depression. This gene is expressed in different areas of the brain and also in female reproductive tissue, strongly suggesting a genetic link between endometriosis and these mental disorders.

There is no known cause, but there are several possible causes:

Family History

Researchers have observed a genetic link, suggesting it may arise from a combination of inherited genes and environmental influences.

Retrograde Menstruation

This theory suggests that during menstruation, some endometrial cells travel backwards through the fallopian tubes into the pelvic cavity instead of exiting the body. These misplaced cells may then implant and grow outside the uterus, thus leading to endometriosis.

Cellular Metaplasia

This proposes that cells lining the pelvic cavity or other areas transform into endometrial-like cells. Metaplasia is usually set off by environmental factors that may act together with the harmful effects of microorganisms and inflammation.

Endometrial Spread

This theory suggests that endometrial cells might spread through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to different areas of the body, similar to how cancer cells spread.

Surgical Scar Implantation

Here, endometrial tissue could be implanted on surgical incisions from procedures like C-sections or hysterectomies.

What are the possible causes of endometriosis?

As mentioned previously, the true cause of endometriosis is unclear, however, there are contributing factors, including family history:

Delayed Childbirth

Some studies suggest that giving birth past the age of 30 may be a potential risk factor.

Happy pregnant mum gently touching her growing belly.

Uterine Abnormalities

Certain anatomical abnormalities of the uterus are also associated with endometriosis.

What are the common symptoms of endometriosis?

Below are the main symptoms of endometriosis:

  1. Pain in the lower abdomen
  2. Heavy periods
  3. Pelvic pain that gets worse during periods
  4. Unbearable period pain that interferes with your daily activities
  5. Pain during or after sex
  6. Pain when going to the bathroom during periods
  7. Gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, diarrhea, nausea, bloating or blood in urine during periods
  8. Infertility 

These symptoms may manifest differently for everyone. Some patients don’t even show symptoms at all. This is one reason why endometriosis is underdiagnosed.

How can endometriosis be managed?

Treatments available for this condition vary based on an individual’s age, severity of symptoms, severity of the condition, and whether or not a woman wants children.

No specific cure as yet exists for endometriosis. Existing treatments, as those provided by Western medicine, focus on pain management. These include hormone therapies (e.g., gonadotropin-releasing hormone, oral contraceptives), over-the-counter pain medication, and even surgery to remove endometrial implants.

However, natural remedies show promise in managing symptoms.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers a complementary approach to control endometriosis symptoms. Natural herbs and acupuncture together are believed to provide relief.

Pain Relief

TCM practitioners use specific herbs with analgesic properties in concert with acupuncture techniques to ease pain due to endometriosis.

A woman holding her stomach in pain

Improved Blood Flow

Some herbal formulas help promote blood circulation, potentially reducing stagnation and discomfort. Acupressure does this too.

Restoring Balance

In TCM, endometriosis is seen as a state of imbalance in the body. Herbal remedies and acupuncture may be used to correct these imbalances and restore overall wellbeing.

While conventional medicine is vital to the management of endometriosis, natural remedies may provide additional support in allaying symptoms. Here are some herbal options you may discuss with your doctor:

Cassia Twig and Poria Cocos

Formulas containing cassia twig (gui zhi, 桂枝), may improve blood flow and curb stagnation.

Red Peony Root

Red Peony Root  (chi shao, 赤芍), is known for its pain-relieving properties. 

Cortex Moutan

This herb contains compounds that may reduce inflammation.

Calming Chamomile

Chamomile tea may help to relax muscles and nerves prior to one’s period.

Soothing Ginger

Ginger tea can relieve pain during your period.

Cinnamon Spice or Fennel

Cinnamon (rou gui, 肉桂), capsules or fennel seeds have the potential to relieve pain. Particularly, cinnamon may regulate menstruation due to its impact on insulin resistance.

Cooling Peppermint

Studies show that peppermint oil can lessen the severity and duration of cramps.

Turmeric

Curcumin, a substance in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory properties, may help regulate hormones, slow down endometrial tissue growth, and lessen insulin resistance, all of which may contribute to pain relief. 

When should one seek medical attention for endometriosis?

If you experience heavy periods, pelvic pain, or painful periods, it is best to consult with your doctor immediately.

References

  1. Abd El Fattah, Eman Aly.Obstetrics and Gynecology International, vol. 2017, 2017, pp. 1–5, https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/5869028 Uterine Cavity Abnormalities in Patients with Endometriosis in Alexandria: A Diagnostic Test Accuracy Study.
  2. ACOG, American Collage of Obstetrician and  Gynecologist . Having a Baby after Age 35: How Aging Affects Fertility and Pregnancy.
  3. Giroux, Veronique, and Anil K. Rustgi. Nature Reviews Cancer, vol. 17, no. 10, 1 Sept. 2017, pp. 594–604. Metaplasia: Tissue Injury Adaptation and a Precursor to the Dysplasia–Cancer Sequence.
  4. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, vol. 53, no. 2, June 2010, pp. Genetics and Genomics of Endometriosis.
  5. Hopkins Medicine. Endometriosis.
  6. NICHD, 31 Jan. 2017. What Are the Treatments for Endometriosis?
  7. World Health Organization, 24 Mar. 2023. Endometriosis.

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