Bowel endometriosis is a condition that results in a woman's uterine lining growing outside the uterus and inside the bowel or intestinal areas. Only about 5 percent of all women have this problem, and it can be incredibly painful. Most women experience significant amounts of pain with bowel endometriosis during their menstrual cycles, which is when the uterine lining is thickest and begins to shed. If left untreated, all types of endometriosis can lead to serious problems with infertility. The symptoms of bowel endometriosis tend to be so similar to those resulting from irritable bowel syndrome that doctors often misdiagnose it.
The symptoms that a woman with bowel endometriosis might experience include rectal bleeding, severe stomach pain, and very painful bowel movements. Constipation and diarrhea may also cause problems for women with this type of endometriosis. Most of the time, symptoms are not very severe, and a woman might believe she is just having stomach problems relating to something else, such as a virus. It is not until symptoms become severe enough to cause rectal bleeding and intense pain that most women see a doctor and discover what is actually causing their problems. There are a variety of different tests a doctor may be able to perform to help him or her differentiate between irritable bowel syndrome and bowel endometriosis.
Doctors typically begin their diagnosis by asking women who experience these symptoms about their medical history. These questions are usually followed up with a variety of laboratory tests and x-rays. Once a doctor begins to suspect bowel endometriosis, he might decide to do either a colonoscopy or a laparascopic procedure in an attempt to find endometrial tissue within the bowel or abdominal area. Doctors are often able to surgically remove much of the tissue present, which can greatly reduce symptoms for most women. Even if surgery is done to remove the endometrial tissue, there is still a chance it will grow back.
Women of child-bearing age may benefit most from surgery to remove endometrial tissue. If a woman has had problems getting pregnant as a direct result of her endometriosis, she may have success conceiving after her surgery. Women of child-bearing age who do not wish to have children might still want to have the surgery for the purpose of relieving painful symptoms. Most types of endometriosis cease to be a problem once a woman reaches menopause. When menstruation stops for good, the uterine lining no longer thickens and the pain associated with endometriosis typically disappears.