What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis occurs when tissue - similar to the tissue that make up the lining of the uterus (known as the endometrium), is found growing and functioning in areas or organs within the body they shouldn’t be, usually within the pelvis.
Endometriosis is most commonly found affecting the lining of the pelvis, the ovaries, and the cul-de-sac (the area between the upper vagina and the rectum), the urinary bladder, and the bowel.
Although it is less common, this rogue tissue can be found further afield, affecting the chest cavity and the lungs.
In fact, Endometriosis has been found affecting almost every organ and tissue throughout the entire body. Meaning - you can come across Endometriosis in all fields of medicine.
What are the stages?
Endometriosis can be mild where you have one or two patches in one area or you can have multiple patches of Endometriosis in various parts of the body.
These patches can be either on the surface (known as superficial Endometriosis) or deep inside the tissue and surrounding organ(s).
The staging process is carried out during an operation where your medical team will assess the amount of Endometriosis you have, the depth of it and the location, staging the condition from one - four or minimal, mild, moderate, and severe.
It's important to know:
The symptoms and the level of pain you have does not necessarily reflect on the severity or stage of Endometriosis, rather it can depend on where the Endometriosis is located, which organ(s) is affected and to what extent.
Endometriosis also creates scar tissue
Endometriosis can also create fibrous scar tissue causing organs such as the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the uterus, and the bowel to stick together. This can distort the organs, jeopardising their function which can lead to severe pain and sometimes serious medical problems. In the more severe type, it is often referred to as frozen pelvis disease.
What is frozen pelvis disease?
Frozen pelvis disease is one of the most extensive forms of Endometriosis.
It occurs when the entire pelvic organs, including the uterus, ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the urinary bladder, and the bowel become stuck, displaced, fused together and firmly fixed to the pelvic bones and side wall by scar tissue and deep infiltrating Endometriosis.
This can significantly affect the function of the organs which are normally separate from one another where they are able to move un-restricted.
Frozen pelvis disease is often associated with severe pain and infertility.
Is Endometriosis the same as the endometrium?
Under the microscope, Endometriosis contains features that are different to the cells found in the endometrium, which is why its cells are described as ‘similar to’ or ‘endometrial-like’.
Despite these differences, Endometriosis tends to respond to the monthly fluctuations in hormones during the menstrual and/or ovulatory cycle. This is why the pain usually becomes most acute around menstruation and/or ovulation.
However it doesn’t always take for the rise and fall of hormones to ‘trigger’ Endometriosis, as some people may find their symptoms heighten around their periods, whereas others may experience pain and symptoms outside of menstruation or continuously (chronic, ongoing pain).