Dealing with endometriosis is extremely challenging. At the UPMC Magee-Womens Endometriosis Center in central Pa., we want you to know that you don't have to do it alone.
We can help connect you with others dealing with endometriosis. There are support groups and patient-centered conferences throughout the region.
Endometriosis is a common disorder impacting approximately 10% of reproductive aged women. The most common symptom associated with endometriosis is pain around the time of a woman's menstrual period.
Endometriosis involves the growth of endometrium (the normal lining of the inside of the uterus) in areas outside of the uterus. It is not completely understood why or how this happens. We do know that once endometriosis is present there are permanent changes that occur in the area of the endometriosis lesions.
Endometriosis is like the normal lining of the uterus in some ways, but it is very different in other ways. Endometriosis responds to the normal hormones made by the ovaries. These hormones are estrogen and progesterone: Estrogen stimulates endometriosis. Progesterone is often used to stabilize or decrease symptoms associated with endometriosis.
New nerves and blood vessels also grow around endometriosis lesions. This is significant because the new nerves tend to be very over sensitive to inflammation.
Inflammation is the body's normal response to any irritation or damage to tissues. Inflammation signals nerves to send a message to the brain that there is pain as a normal part of this process.
In women with endometriosis, the nerves that are around the lesions send amplified signals to the brain. This causes women to feel very high levels of pain with little to no damage occurring. This pain can be caused by any source of inflammation.
The most common and predictable source of inflammation in the pelvis is the uterus during your menstrual period. This is why suppressing the menstrual period often helps to improve symptoms. It does not directly treat your endometriosis. This is also one of the primary reasons that hysterectomies can improve symptoms of endometriosis.
Long-term management of endometriosis symptoms is focused on controlling three things. First, trying to decrease the stimulation of endometriosis lesions through decreasing estrogen levels. Second, decreasing disease burden though surgical removal of visible endometriosis lesions. Finally, decreasing inflammation and controlling sources of inflammation. This can be done through lifestyle modification, surgery (hysterectomy), and anti-inflammatory medication.
Dr. Linda Griffith appeared on Fresh Air: Unlocking the Mysteries of Endometriosis on May 13, 2021. She provides an overview of endometriosis and the symptoms. She also describes cutting edge research into the disease. Dr. Griffith has endometriosis and provides some information about her own journey. She is also a research scientist and the co-founder of the MIT Center for Gynepathology Research.
March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. We will be spreading the word through our annual endometriosis conference, which will take place in 2023 for providers and the general public. More Information forthcoming.
If you're interested in donating to support endometriosis treatment and research, see “Ways to Give."
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