Endometriosis occurs when endometrial cells, the cells that make up the lining of the uterus, travel outside the uterus to other parts of the body. Even though these cells no longer reside within the uterus, they are still stimulated by a woman's reproductive hormones and shed blood during menstruation each month. Blood from these cells causes deposits to accumulate and form scar tissue, which can be painful. Endometriosis affects 10% of American women of childbearing age and up to 90% of women with infertility. It is one of the main causes of infertility in women.
Many women with endometriosis have no symptoms, and they often do not find out they have it until they have problems trying to conceive. The most common symptoms include the following:
The cause is unknown, but theories include:
A physical examination may include gentle pushing on your abdomen and a pelvic exam. Your doctor may order an ultrasound, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or other tests to help determine whether or not you have endometriosis. Definitive diagnosis is made with laparoscopy, a surgical procedure that inserts a fiber-optic rod and camera into the abdomen through a small incision in the belly button.
There is no cure for endometriosis. Treatments are designed to relieve symptoms.
The following drugs can relieve the symptoms of endometriosis:
Laparoscopic laser techniques help shrink lesions and may improve fertility. Doctors typically only recommend total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and ovaries) when necessary, however, this approach does not guarantee an end to symptoms. Doctors sometimes use surgical procedures in combination with long-term medicine. Studies suggest medication combined with surgical therapy offers an advantage over surgery alone.
In addition to diet, herbs, and supplements, exercise may help prevent endometriosis. It is unknown whether exercise will help an existing condition. Since hormones like estrogen affect endometriosis, many treatments are designed to reduce estrogen levels in the body. If you are pregnant, or thinking of becoming pregnant, do not use any complementary and alternative therapies unless directed to do so by your physician.
These nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms:
Nutritional deficiencies may be addressed with the following supplements:
Herbs are a way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your health care provider to choose the safest, most effective herbal therapies before starting any treatment. Many of the following herbs have hormonal activity and may therefore interfere with hormonal medications. Always tell your doctor about any herbs you may be taking. Never use herbs if you are pregnant unless directed to do so by your physician. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, or teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, make teas with 1 tsp. of herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures alone or in combination as noted.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is often used as an alternative and/or complementary treatment for endometriosis. Herbs often prescribed include corydalis, cnidium, bupleurum, dong quai, and perilla, sometimes accompanied by acupuncture. Because doses vary, you should talk to a licensed provider of TCM.
A qualified natural medicine provider may prescribe natural hormone creams, such as progesterone, to balance excess estrogen levels. This should only be done under the care of a licensed doctor skilled in the use of natural hormones. Keep all of your doctors informed whenever you use hormones of any kind.
Although few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider the following remedies for the treatment of gastritis symptoms (such as nausea and vomiting) based on their knowledge and experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account your constitutional type, includes your physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for you.
Some of the most common remedies are listed below. A common dose is 3 to 5 pellets of a 12X - 30C remedy every 1 to 4 hours until your symptoms improve.
DO NOT perform these therapies during menstrual flow:
Acupuncture may help reduce pain and balance hormone levels. Preliminary studies show that acupuncture is effective in reducing pain related to endometriosis. More studies are needed.
Therapeutic massage may help resolve pelvic congestion.
Endometriosis often resolves temporarily during pregnancy and lessons after menopause -- although not always. Recent evidence suggests that women who have endometriosis are at greater risk of developing ovarian cancer.
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Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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