Fortunately there is an outstanding international group dedicated to supporting and educating women and their doctors about the diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis. The Endometriosis Association (1-800-426-2END) is sponsoring endometriosis awareness week March 23 to 28. The association is distributing yellow ribbons to spread the word to women who do not yet have access to information about the disease.
Endometriosis (endo) is normal tissue in an abnormal location. It occurs when tissue similar to that which normally lines the inside of the uterus, (the endometrium) grows in parts of the body where it doesn't normally grow. This happens most commonly in the bottom most part of the pelvis, the uterine ligaments, outside surface of the uterus, tubes, ovaries, lower end of the large bowel, and on the membranes covering the bladder.
Endometriosis may be the result of an auto-immune disease. This means that the body rejects the abnormal endometrial-like tissue that is located in the pelvis, with both local and generalized effects.
Recent evidence has shown that the immune system of endometriosis patients is depressed. This includes dysfunction of T-cells, B-cells, and natural killer cells.
The meticulous research of a gynecologist in a small city in Oregon has yielded a new and intriguing theory of what causes endo. Dr. David Redwine of Bend, Oregon, found no evidence that endo is a recurrent or progressively spreading disease.
In Dr. Redwine's theory, endo is a static disease that you are born with, as a result of cells left behind during fetal development. Later on, certain triggers activate the disease.
Some of those triggers could include environmental contaminants such as dioxin, other industrial chemicals and radiation; stress and emotional factors; a diet high in meat and dairy; iodine deficiency, deficiency of essential fatty acids; vitamin and mineral deficiencies; chronic yeast infections, sluggish liver function, and relative progesterone deficiency.
Women with endometriosis still have difficulty getting diagnosed. Petersen says that 75 percent of the women who came to Dr. Redwine's clinic with proven endo had been dismissed by their doctors as being neurotic.
Unlike what most doctors were taught, women with endo report a wide variety of types of pain and timing of pain. There is really no "typical" endometriosis pain and it can occur at any time throughout the cycle.
In Dr. Redwine's study, painful periods occurred in only 45 percent of women, painful sex in 37 percent and infertility in 27 percent. Other symptoms included pain with bowel movements, pain with aerobic exercise or jogging, and pain with posture changes. Twenty percent of women were asymptomatic.
The purpose of treatment is the relief of pain (it does not usually improve pregnancy rates). The choices offered are usually expensive drugs with serious side effects or surgery requiring much skill and expertise.
For some women, the painful symptoms of endometriosis can be alleviated through natural means. However, such approaches require time, patience and commitment. They are not as cut and dry as taking a pill or getting abnormal tissue cut out. There is no single panacea that works for all women with endo. It will probably be necessary to combine a number of different therapies and to allow sufficient time for them to work. It is also advisable to have a naturopathic physician to co-ordinate treatment.
It is also important to look at the emotional issues both caused by having a disabling disease and preceding the development of it. Working to change beliefs about illness, stress reduction and visualization techniques are helpful to anyone with chronic pain problems.
The new age attitude that we create our own reality, while it has merit, has resulted in people beating up on themselves or others who have chronic illness. The implication is that women with endo have done something wrong in their physical or emotional life that caused the illness. These attitudes can become an obstacle to healing.
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