Menstruation is an essential part of being a woman, however endometriosis causes many women to dread their periods due to pain. An estimated 50% of women with painful periods and infertility have endometriosis yet only a minority are aware and receive appropriate treatment. Previously overlooked as part and parcel of being a woman, endometriosis is now getting diagnosed more often.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is the medical term for when endometrial cells, tissue similar to the womb lining, grows outside of the uterus – specifically around the abdomen, ovaries, recto-vaginal septum, bladder and bowel. These growths are the cause of the severe pain that comes with menstruation as those endometrial cells behave as though they were in the uterus and break down to shed with each menstrual cycle.
Unlike the lining of the womb, which has a natural point of exit, this tissue cannot exit the body causing internal bleeding, swelling and possibly scarring. Endometriosis found on the fallopian tubes or ovaries can lead to fertility problems.
What Causes Endometriosis and Who Does it Affect?
There is no definitive cause for endometriosis with various studies proving inconclusive or failing to find a consensus. Endometriosis can occur in any reproductive female however most commonly is reported in women over 30. The average gap between the onset of symptoms and diagnosis is more than 10 years.
What Are The Symptoms?
Endometrial symptoms vary from patient to patient and it is not uncommon for affected women to have none at all. Common symptoms include:
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Painful periods
- Pain during or after sex
Other symptoms include:
- Bleeding or spotting between periods
These symptoms alone or together are not confirmation of endometriosis. Keyhole surgery (laparoscopy) must be performed to receive a definitive diagnosis of endometriosis, so always seek professional medical advice if any of these symptoms persist.
Two things that can help alleviate the symptoms, or complement medical treatment, are diet and managing stress levels.
Although some women find the symptoms of endometriosis improve on their own, most women will need medical or surgical treatment.
Pregnancy can temporarily ease the symptoms, however it is a time-limited solution.
Women with no plans to start a family or extend theirs may benefit from hormone treatments or the introduction of a hormonal Progesterone intrauterine device (IUD) to reduce bleeding and pain.
However, if imminent fertility is important then surgery is the most effective treatment. Endometriosis causing infertility can be surgically removed via laparoscopy (where a narrow telescopic camera is inserted via a small incision) and is often performed at the same time as the original diagnosis with a fine scalpel or laser. Most women who have received surgical treatment report long-term success.
If you have questions or concerns about endometriosis, please call our office on 1300 780 138 to arrange an appointment with one of our female gynaecologists at Northside Gynaecology.
Facts about endometriosis – http://endometriosis.org/resources/articles/facts-about-endometriosis/
Endometriosis – the hidden suffering of millions of women revealed – https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/sep/28/endometriosis-hidden-suffering-millions-women