Clarifying medical terms
Endometriosis versus Endometritis versus Endometrial Ablation versus Ablation of Endometriosis…
Latin: Endo “inside”
Osis- “condition of”
It is- “inflammation of”
“Ablation”= “take away”
Oh Latin roots, so helpful sometimes, but also so very confusing at others. This section is dedicated to helping you to understand those big scary words thrown around, and perhaps to clear up why there is so much confusion communicating about things like endometriosis.
So first we have “endo” and “metr”… inside the uterus. That’s a start. “osis” and “itis” make the word take very different directions. “Itis” implies inflammation of the actual inside lining of the uterus. This is usually because of infection and can be treated with antibiotics. It has nothing to do with endometriosis. EndometriOSIS, essentially means “inside uterus condition” and, in our humble opinion, is not a very descriptive word for the unrelenting hell that the condition is…but we digress. So it’s the condition of the inside of the uterus NOT being in the uterus where it belongs. It has “gone rogue” or “formed abnormally” or any other number of descriptions that attempt to describe something that is barely understood. Tissue similar to the tissue on the inside of the uterus is growing other places: perhaps the outside of the uterus. Perhaps the fallopian tubes, perhaps the bowels, perhaps the diaphragm… it is lost in the body without a GPS.
There are other “endo-“ words, too. One of them is just “endometrial”… aka “having to do with the inside of a uterus”. Then, in this tricky world of uterus-speak, there is that word “ablation”- “to take away”. A common myth we have heard that is based on what I can safely assume is a confusion about terminology, is that someone had endometriOSIS that was cured by an ablation. Now, bear with us here, there are a few issues here. An “endoMETRIAL ablation” is one where, through one of several methods is used to basically flush out and destroy endometrial tissue that is IN the uterus. This is done for people who are having very heavy periods. In this case, only the uterus is cleaned out. The body cavity outside the uterus is left alone. This opens up a whole new can of worms since, even today, top doctors debate how endometriosis starts and why it grows (more about that in another post).
Then, there is “ablation of endoMETRIOSIS”. This is far different than the uterine ablation we just discussed. This is one kind of surgery that is done laparoscopically. In this procedure, the surgeon tries to locate spots of endometriOSIS and uses a tool to vaporize them, or more medically, ablate them. It is similar to trying to “melt” these endometriosis spots and has nothing to do with the inside of the uterus. This is a very common method of endometriosis treatment and is only sometimes helpful. In another section we will talk more about the different endometriosis treatment tactics and why some are better than others. As a general rule of thumb, surgeons that only do endometriosis ablations are not likely to be treating endo in the best possible way (once again, we will talk more about different endo surgeries in a separate post).
So there you have it, some of the words you have heard that can be utterly confusing upon first glance. Or second, or third… and can lead to misconceptions about endometriosis and how it is treated. What are some other endo terms that are easy to mix up?