Endometriosis is a painful, chronic condition that affects 176 million women worldwide, and around 1 in 10 women and girls in the United States. It occurs when tissue similar to the endometrium, or uterine lining, is found outside the uterus on other parts of the body. Generally, endometrial tissue is found in the pelvic cavity, and can attach to any of the female reproductive organs (outside of the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries) or any of the spaces between the bladder, uterus/vagina, and rectum.
This misplaced tissue responds to the hormones released during the menstrual cycle in the same way as the uterine lining: each month the tissue builds up, breaks down, and sheds. However, unlike the uterine lining, this tissue has no way of leaving the body and can cause pain, inflammation, internal bleeding, scarring, and bowel problems.
Common symptoms of endometriosis include:
“Killer cramps” that do not go away with NSAIDS and/or impede the activities of daily living
Periods that last longer than 7 days
Heavy menstrual flow - changing a pad or tampon every 1-2 hours throughout most of the cycle
Bowel and urinary disorders - including but not limited to painful urination or bowel movements, frequent urge to urinate, or diarrhea
Nausea or vomiting
Pain during sexual activities
The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown. Researchers are still unsure how or why the endometrial tissue escapes the uterus. For many years, doctors believed that retrograde menstruation was the main cause of endometriosis. However, it is now understood that 90% of women have retrograde menstruation and only 1 in 10 have endometriosis. More research is required to determine whether retrograde menstruation may affect some women differently.
In addition to lifestyle and dietary changes, acupuncture and herbs are powerful tools in reducing the pain of endometriosis and in regulating the menstrual cycle. Our reproductive specialists at TCRA are skilled at assessing each individual to determine the best treatment strategy to manage symptoms and balance the body’s constitution to prevent issues in the future.