Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Endometriosis - The 4 Stages

So, you or a loved one has been diagnosed with endometriosis, and been told what stage the disease is at, but you’re not really sure what this means. Maybe your doctor will soon be doing a procedure to determine the stage and you need more information. Either way, it is important to know exactly what endometriosis is and what the different stages mean.

The endometrium is a layer of cells that grow inside the uterus in preparation for the fertilized egg implanting. If no egg implants, the endometrial cells are shed and women experience a period. In women with endometriosis, this process does not occur quite so smoothly.

Endometriosis is a condition where the endometrium grows into the tissue surrounding the uterus, most often the ovaries. Instead of flowing out of the body during menstruation, the tissue stays in the other areas and eventually grows and scars.

The stage of the disease is determined by several factors, including:

* The location of the growths
* The superficiality or depth of the growths in organs
* How stuck together organs are
* The growth rate of the area

Your doctor can confirm your diagnosis and determine the stage of the disease by doing a simple surgery called a laparoscopy. This is when a camera is inserted into the affected area so the doctor can see the extent of the damage.

When doing a laparoscopy, the doctor will determine the severity of each of these factors and assign numbers. The total number that is reached determines what stage you are. Here is a general description of each stage.

Stage 1: Less than 5. This is considered a very mild case. Adhesions (thin strings of scar tissue spread from one area to another) are superficial, thin and filmy.

Stage 2: 6 to 15. This is still a mild form of the disease. This also includes thin, filmy adhesions, but the patient also has superficial and deep implants of endometrial cells.

Stage 3: 16 to 40. This is moderate endometriosis. Implants are also superficial and deep, but the adhesions are still filmy, but more dense.

Stage 4: Greater than 40. This is the most severe case of the disease. Many women with stage 4 experience infertility because the growths are so severe. This includes deep and superficial implants, but the adhesions are very dense. In very few women, the adhesions will have spread past the lower abdominal cavity.

It is important for women to realize that pain is not a good indicator of the stage of the illness. While it makes sense for symptoms to increase as the disease progresses, many women have severe pain and other complications from only mild cases. In addition, some women never experience visible symptoms. They only find out they have endometriosis during fertility testing and other procedures.

Knowing the stage of your disease will help your doctor determine and appropriate treatment plan for you. However, the stage of your disease has nothing to do with how you’ll respond to treatment. A patient with stage 1 endometriosis may respond poorly to treatment while someone with a higher stage could respond very well. Stage is also not a good indicator of whether or not your disease will reoccur once it is under control.

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