The Times Leader
Painful disorder may increase risk of infertility
EILEEN CIPRIANI Times Leader Correspondent
May 3, 2011
It is among the top three causes of infertility and pelvic pain in women. There is a research center and a foundation in the United States, as well as an international society and yellow ribbon devoted to the disorder. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services more than 5 million women in America alone have been diagnosed. Oscar Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon and “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi are among them. In March at the 3rd annual Blossom Ball fundraiser for research in New York, Sarandon and Lakshmi shared their first-hand experiences with the malady — endometriosis.
Endometriosis is when endometrial cells that normally line the interior of the uterus relocate in other areas of the body. The cells usually become displaced in the pelvic area, but in extremely rare cases they can be found in other parts of the body, says Dr. Jennifer Sue Gell of Geisinger Health System’s Women’s Health Center. Gell is obstetrics-gynecology certified with a practicing specialty in reproductive endocrinology and fertility.
In endometriosis the displaced tissues acts as it normally would during the menstrual cycle. It thickens and bleeds, but because it is unable to exit the body it irritates surrounding tissue causing pain and eventually develops scar tissue and adhesions.
No one knows with complete certainty what causes endometriosis says Dr. David Lezinsky, DO, an obstetrics and gynecologist affiliated with Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. There are a few theories as to why the condition develops according to Lezinsky. One possibility is retrograde menstruation. In retrograde menstruation, menstrual blood containing endometrial cells flows back through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity instead of out of the body. Another theory is that endometrial cells developed in areas where they do not belong as the woman’s body developed.
There are a few known risk factors for developing endometriosis. Never giving birth or having a relative with endometriosis increases your chances of experiencing it, but you can develop it without a family history.
Pain is the most common symptom with endometriosis says Gell. Women often think that having a heavy period means they have endometriosis. This is not true says Gell, as the main symptom of endometriosis is painful periods, not the amount of flow. Patients with endometriosis can also suffer from painful periods, painful intercourse and infertility.