Endometriosis is a painful condition suffered by more than six and a half million women of menstruating age in the United States. Endometriosis happens when tissue that is similar to the endometrium or lining of the uterus is found outside of the uterus, often attached to other organs.
Displaced endometrium-like tissue tends to attach to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, connective uterine support tissue and outer surface of the uterus. Your doctor may also find endometriosis growing on the vagina, bladder, bowel, rectum, vulva and cervix. It’s rarely found in areas outside of the pelvic region. The tissue creates scarring that may cause lesions or inflammation of the reproductive system and compromise your fertility.
Often referred to as “endo”, endometriosis is most common among women in their 30s and 40s. Doctors tend to diagnose endometriosis in women of this age category due to an inability to become pregnant, which may be their only symptom. Researchers believe endometriosis is the cause of infertility in one out of every two women with symptoms related to endometriosis. The good news is that endometriosis is treatable. Depending on the degree to which your endo compromises your fertility you may well be able to conceive with fertility treatment.
Family History is A Risk Factor
The fact is any woman who menstruates is at risk for endo. While no one knows the exact cause for endometriosis there are certain factors which lead to an increased risk for developing the disease. One of the leading risk factors for developing endometriosis is your family history. If someone in your family has endo your odds of developing the condition is 7-10 times greater than a woman who has no family history of the disease. The risk applies both maternally and paternally, so if someone in your father’s family has endo your odds increase just as in your mother’s family.
There are some studies that show endometriosis tends to cluster in families. This is especially true if your immediate blood related family members such as your mother or sister have endo. The research is relatively new and scientists are currently looking into potential gene mutations associated with more severe forms of endometriosis. While having a close relative with endometriosis poses a strong predisposition for the condition it’s not the only risk factor.
Other Risk Factors
Family history poses a significant risk for endometriosis, however there are additional risk factors of which you should be aware. They are as follows.
- Characteristics of Your Period: If you start menstruating prior to age 12 you may have a higher risk for developing endo. The reason for this is the longer your exposure to menstruation the higher your odds for developing the condition. If the time between your periods consistently lasts fewer than 27 days or your flow is longer than seven days you are also at greater risk for endo.
- Retrograde Menstrual Flow: This is a term used to describe a menstrual flow that moves upward into your pelvic region rather than out your vagina. Retrograde menstrual flow is a condition often associated with structural abnormalities of the cervix, vagina or uterus or a growth in any of those areas. It’s possible an increase in estrogen affects the direction of your flow as well.
- Immune System Disorders: If you have an immune disorder your system is less likely to recognize misplaced tissue and this can lead to endometriosis implantation and growth. The misplaced tissue may well lead to scarring, lesions and inflammation.
- Abdominal Surgery: Any abdominal surgery puts you at risk for endometriosis. Normally your body destroys any tissue it identifies as abnormal and out of place. This is your immune system in action. Occasionally the immune system misses some tissue which sometimes develops into endometriosis.
- Age: Any woman who is of the age to menstruate is at risk for endometriosis. Endo rarely is an issue for women who are post menopause.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
In many cases the first symptom of endometriosis women experience is an inability to conceive. However there are some other signs of endometriosis you should know:
- Painful period cramps
- Heavy menstrual flow
- Spotting between periods
- Painful or uncomfortable intercourse
- Painful urination or bowel movements
What Can You Do?
If your mother, sister or other blood-related family member (aunt, cousin, and grandmother) has endometriosis, or if you have any of the other risk factors and experience symptoms of endo or infertility, contact LA IVF. We offer the latest options in fertility treatment and our compassionate team is with you every step of the journey. Contact us today for a consultation.