Endometriosis – The ins and outs.
ENDOMETRIOSIS – what is it?
For some women, endometriosis is a very painful chronic condition. It occurs when the tissue lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, grows outside of the uterus, in other parts of the body. These are usually around the pelvis and can include growing on the bladder or ovaries. It affects approximately 700,000 Australian women.
The symptoms and impact of endometriosis vary from person to person. While some women have very little pain or symptoms, for others endometriosis can significantly impact the quality of their lives.
Impacts are profound, with the need to take time off work and possible damage to personal relationships due to a lack of intimacy. Pain may be lower abdominal and in the pelvis and can occur when passing a bowel motion or with sexual intercourse.
What causes endometriosis?
We don’t currently know exactly what causes endometriosis, but we do know that it varies a lot from person to person:
- Backwards Menstruation – menstrual (period) blood flows out of the body through the vagina, some travels backwards along the fallopian tubes and into the pelvis. This blood can contain cells from the endometrium and is normally absorbed or broken down. In some women, these cells stick onto surfaces and start growing. Normal pelvic tissue can turn into endometriosis.
- Family history – Women who have a close relative with endometriosis are up to 7-10 times more likely to develop the condition.
Other factors include:
- Heavy periods that last longer than 5 days
- Frequent periods (less than 27 days between periods) and shorter cycles
- Having your first period before 11
- First pregnancy when you’re older
- Immune system problems
- low body weight
- alcohol use.
What are the symptoms?
There is a lot of variation in the symptoms from person to person. Pain is one of the key symptoms and it is directly related to where the endometrial tissue is located.
Some woman will have very little pain and others will have reoccurring symptoms that impact their lives on a daily basis.
- Period pain before or during menstruation
- Pelvic or abdominal pain during sex or when going to the toilet
- Heavy periods
- Irregular periods
- Bleeding in between your period cycle
- Bleeding from the bladder or bowel
- Tiredness and lack of energy, especially around your period time
- Feeling the need to urinate more often than normal
- Mood changes including feeling anxious
- Concerns with Fertility
- Endometriosis can impair the ability for a woman to conceive.
How is it diagnosed and treated?
Endometriosis is often poorly understood, recognised, treated and managed.
I will take time to understand your symptoms and look at your overall lifestyle including diet and exercise. In some cases where endometriosis is severe, it can be observed on ultrasound. However, in most cases endometriosis is not seen on ultrasound and a laparoscopy (keyhole surgery) may be required.
Once we have made the diagnoses we will work together to find the best treatment for you. There are many options including treatments which are either hormonal as well as non-hormonal options and lastly surgery to remove the spots of endometriosis.
I believe in taking a holistic approach to address both your mental and physical well-being.
Fertility and Pregnancy.
Endometriosis can impair a woman’s ability to conceive. This is the result of either inflammatory cells impairing the release of eggs from the ovary, fertilisation of the egg and implantation of the embryo within the womb.
Endometriosis can also distort the normal anatomy of a woman’s reproductive organs. This can cause difficulties with the sperm meeting the egg and uterine contractions that can prevent implantation.
A recent study published in the journal Translational Medicine has indicated how endometriosis, causes infertility.
Read more about the outcome of the study here.
Fortunately, the lives of women can be dramatically improved if diagnosed correctly and treatment is commenced. This will result in the absence or marked reduction of pain and the ability to conceive.