Endometriosis occurs when the endometrial cells that line the uterus find their way into the abdominal cavity. Each month when a woman has her period, the endometrial tissues located within the abdominal cavity will begin to bleed just like those inside the uterus. This can lead to scar tissue and extreme pain before, during, and after the woman has her period. If left untreated, the scar tissue will continue to form putting pressure on other organs in the abdominal cavity. Many women have no symptoms at all until the condition progresses to the point where the scar tissue is extensive. The condition can be hard to diagnose because it is not visible by ultrasound or other imaging studies.
In the earliest stages, doctors may choose to treat the symptoms of endometriosis with anti-inflammatory medications like Advil and possible birth control pills. As the condition continues to worsen, hormone therapies may be considered that slow or stop the monthly periods while putting the woman into an early menopause. While the early menopause is only temporary, it can result in reducing the amount of bleeding within the abdominal cavity. In severe cases, the doctor may recommend surgery in which the endometrial tissue within the abdominal cavity is removed.
The main symptoms of endometriosis often coincide with a woman's monthly period and may go unnoticed for many months. Some of the symptoms are similar to those of PMS and are believed to be associated with their periods. Extreme pain prior to starting menstrual cycle and painful intercourse are two of the most common symptoms. Many symptoms will follow the woman's menstrual cycle, while others may be present all the time. In cases where the condition has progressed, pelvic and abdominal pain may be present all of the time whether or not the woman is on her period. If a woman begins to experience pain or other symptoms between periods, she should visit her OB/GYN.
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