We don’t often think about our reproductive organs unless they don’t seem to be working right — or we’re cursing them for ruining our plans during a menstrual cycle. Your fallopian tubes serve one primary purpose: acting as a pathway for an egg to travel from your ovaries to the uterus. But what fallopian tube disorders exist that women should know about?
If the egg gets fertilized during the journey, it implants into the lining of the uterus, resulting in a pregnancy. If it doesn’t, well, we all know how that ends — with chocolate, cramps and crying. What happens if there isn’t a clear path from the ovary to the uterus?
1. Ectopic Pregnancy
During a healthy pregnancy, the fertilized egg implants into the side of the uterus, where it will continue to grow for the next 40 weeks. In rare cases, the embryo will implant and begin to grow inside the fallopian tube instead, resulting in what’s known as an ectopic pregnancy. These pregnancies can also occur outside of the uterus in the abdominal cavity or elsewhere in the reproductive system, but they most commonly implant inside the fallopian tubes.
Fallopian tubes aren’t large enough to accommodate a full-term pregnancy, and allowing one to continue could result in hemorrhaging or death, and may even cause the fallopian tube to rupture. That’s why it is essential to seek out prenatal care if you have a positive pregnancy test. A quick ultrasound to discover an ectopic pregnancy could save your life, even if it isn’t possible to prevent this fallopian tube disorder.
2. Tubal Disease
Tubal disease is a broad term that encompasses any fallopian tube disorders that can cause infertility. Tubal disease may result from scar tissue in the abdominal cavity, untreated sexually transmitted infections or previous tubal ligations.
Damage to the fallopian tubes creates scar tissue that blocks the egg from moving down the tube. The blockage may only be partial, and if the sperm can travel past it, an ectopic pregnancy can result. Infertility is more common than people think — nearly 80% of couples who are trying to conceive won’t be able to do so within the first year. Tubal disease or scar tissue adhesions are just two of the possible reasons for infertility.
3. Isolated Tubal Torsion
Rarely, your fallopian tubes won’t be content staying straight in your abdomen, and they’ll try their hardest to tie themselves in knots. The medical name for this fallopian tube disorder is isolated tubal torsion. It usually presents as severe lower abdominal pain with no pregnancy symptoms. Doctors may initially mistake it for appendicitis if the right-hand fallopian tube is the one that gets twisted.
When torsion occurs, the tissue of the fallopian tube becomes necrotic and dies. Not only does this effectively disconnect your ovary from your uterus, but necrotic tissue can cause an infection or sepsis. Unfortunately, unless your doctor catches it early enough, surgery to remove the dead tissue is the only treatment for isolated tubal torsion.
4. Tubal Cysts
We hear a lot about ovarian cysts, which can be uncomfortable at best and downright agonizing at worst, but most of us don’t know cysts can also occur within your fallopian tubes. They usually dissolve on their own without the need for any external intervention, but if they become too large, they can cause extreme pain and even, in rare cases, cause the fallopian tube to burst.
Those cases usually require surgical removal of the cyst. It may or may not be necessary to remove the fallopian tube as well, depending on the circumstances. Fallopian tube cysts may be one of the many reasons you’re experiencing abdominal pain after sex, too.
Endometriosis is primarily a uterine condition. The endometrial tissue, which usually lines the uterus, grows outside the organ and makes its way throughout the abdominal cavity. The lining of your uterus ends up growing on and in your other organs, causing pain, heavy periods and even infertility — especially if that endometrial tissue makes its way into your fallopian tubes.
Making matters worse, the symptoms of endometriosis are often confused with other conditions such as uterine fibroids. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to see a doctor if you experience signs of endometriosis. It’s crucial to get a correct diagnosis so you can start the right treatment plan.
Hormone therapy can treat endometriosis and prevent the spread of the endometrial tissue, but in extreme cases, a hysterectomy may be necessary to alleviate the symptoms and prevent the spread of the tissue. A doctor will help you determine the best course of action.
When to Talk to Your Doctor About Fallopian Tube Disorders
This list is just scratching the surface when it comes to fallopian tube disorders you might experience. If something doesn’t feel right, or you’re trying to conceive and unable to do it the natural way, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor and have some tests done. Infertility is more common than you might think, and something a simple as a scarred fallopian tube could be the culprit.