What is Endometriosis 1

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					Endometriosis. What is it? A lot of people, maybe most, haven't even
heard of endometriosis. In a lot of ways it is hard to really understand
what it is and even harder for people to get what having this disease can
do to a patient's life. It can be difficult for even the most articulate
patient to effectively communicate how devastating endometriosis can be
on one's life and ability to function. In this first of a series of
posts I will review the medical definition. In the following posts I
will discuss what it really means to have endometriosis.

Endometriosis is defined as the presence of endometrial tissue outside of
the uterus, the organ in which the baby grows during pregnancy. When it
is time to deliver, the uterus pushes the baby out. Most of the uterus is
made up of muscle, but it is lined on the inside by a thin layer of
glands called the endometrium. This layer provides the nutritional
support to the developing fetus prior to the development of the placenta
(also known as the after-birth).During the first two weeks of the
menstrual cycle the endometrial lining responds to the estrogen, growing
in thickness. You can think of estrogen as "fertilizer" for the
endometrial lining. The last half of the cycle, after ovulation occurs
(about two weeks after the first day of bleeding during a period), the
other female hormone, progesterone, helps to stabilize and mature the
endometrial lining. If a woman is not pregnant, both the estrogen and
progesterone levels drop at the end of the cycle, the endometrial lining
sloughs off, and her period starts the next day.The menses are made up of
the endometrial lining, blood and clots. Most of the menses comes out
through the vagina, but some flows back up through the fallopian tubes
and remains inside of the body. Endometriosis is formed when some of this
tissue implants and starts to grow. We don't completely understand why
some women develop endometriosis, and others do not. It is probably
related to both the amount of tissue that a woman's body has to get rid
of each month, genetics, environmental exposure and her body's inability
to recognize or get rid of the endometrial tissue inside of the body
cavity. Research to date points to a selective decrease in the immune
system as a cause of endometriosis. Several studies, as well as our own
personal experiences, also have shown a decrease in the natural "killer-
cell" function (a type of white blood cell) in women who have
endometriosis.As discussed in the previous paragraph, in the vast
majority of cases, retrograde menstruation (backward flow) with
implantation of endometrial tissue is the cause of endometriosis.
Endometrial tissue also can form or spread via other, less common
mechanisms. Extra-pelvic endometriosis (endometriosis outside of the
pelvic cavity) has been reported in virtually every organ of the
body.Most of these rare endometrial implants, and are formed as a result
of the spread of endometrial tissue through the blood stream
(hematogenous spread).Endometriosis also has been reported in the lymph
nodes (e.g., obturator lymph nodes). Thus, endometriosis can also spread
through the lymphatic system.Endometrial tissue can spread during surgery
as well. The most common example of surgical spread is endometriosis that
is found in the abdominal wall following a C-section. Endometriosis has
even been reported in the belly button. This usually presents with
bleeding from the navel with menses.Finally, another theory states that
endometriosis can form as a result of what is called coelomic metaplasia.
Coelomic cells are those formed as a fetus, and metaplasia means one
cell-type turns into another cell-type. In other words, in adult life
some of the primitive cells turn into endometriosis. This probably
accounts for the case of endometriosis reported in men. All of the men
who had endometriosis were on estrogen therapy (most likely for prostatic
cancer), which probably stimulated the transformation of the coelomic
cells into endometriosis (Ladies, please do NOT slip your significant
other a few birth control pills if he is not understanding of your
pain!).In conclusion, endometriosis is the presence of endometrial tissue
outside of the uterus. In the vast majority of cases, the back flow of
menstrual tissue through the fallopian tubes with implantation of
endometrial tissue is probably the cause of endometriosis.Much of this
can be seen as dry and boring, but is the medical aspect of "What is
Endometriosis." I will talk about the reality of what having
endometriosis means for women and the impact on their lives in the next
couple of posts.We would like to hear your thoughts. Post a comment below
and tell us what you think.\Vital Health InstituteLeading Specialist in
Women's Health & Endometriosis TreatmentTreating women in US, Canada,
Switzerland & Many Other Countries15055 Los Gatos Blvd, Suite 250Los
Gatos, CA 95032(408) 358-2511 or (888) 256-7705For More Information
Visit:EndometriosisEndometriosis Symptoms

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