BOSTON, Jan. 31 /PRNewswire/ -- Crippling menstrual cramps,gastrointestinal problems, and pain during sex are among the most common anddistressing symptoms of endometriosis, a gynecological disorder that affectsas many as 1 in 10 women. Although endometriosis symptoms are most troublingduring the reproductive years, they don't necessarily disappear once a womanstops menstruating, reports the Harvard Women's Health Watch. Endometriosis occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus showsup on the walls of the abdominal cavity and the outer surfaces of the uterus,ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowel, bladder, and nearby organs. Like the uterinelining, this tissue builds up and sheds monthly in response to the menstrualcycle. But rather than exiting through the vagina, the way menstrual fluiddoes, it remains trapped, triggering inflammation and scar tissue. Estrogen fuels the growth of endometriosis, so in theory, dwindlingestrogen levels at menopause should lessen the symptoms. But even afterperiods have ceased, the ovaries continue to produce small amounts of thehormone, so endometriosis may continue to cause trouble. "I think ofendometriosis as a chronic disease that often -- but not always -- improvesafter natural or surgical menopause," says Dr. Martha K. Richardson, editorialboard member of the Harvard Women's Health Watch. Women with endometriosis also have a higher-than-average risk ofautoimmune disorders and related problems, such as chronic fatigue syndrome,hypothyroidism, and fibromyalgia. They're also more likely to develop ovariancancer. The Harvard Women's Health Watch suggests that if you haveendometriosis, be sure to have annual checkups and any tests recommended byyour clinician.
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SOURCE Harvard Women's Health WatchWeb Site: