When it comes to women’s health, there are still lots of conditions that many women are unaware of. It’s important to understand these things, in order to make the most informed decision about your health.
Endometriosis is one of those conditions, affecting an estimate of 1 in 10 women worldwide. It has however only recently been something that has been discussed widely, with more and more awareness campaigns surfacing.
To help you understand a bit more about it, here is some more information.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic condition that occurs when endometrial-like tissues are found in other parts of the body, including the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and outside the uterus.
It can be incredibly painful, and impact on someone’s everyday quality of life. Some women with endometriosis find they are unable to get out of bed during their period due to the intense pain.
Like many other conditions, the symptoms can vary from mild to more severe, with some people not noticing any symptoms at all.
Some of the signs you might have endometriosis include;
Painful periods – during menstruation if you are experiencing extended periods of pelvic pain, back pain, abdominal pain and cramping, it can be a potential symptom of endometriosis. The pain is so intense for some women that they have to take days off of work, study or school because they can’t function normally. Fatigue may also be another sign.
Pain during bowel movements or urination – this may be a symptom of endometriosis, especially if it occurs during your period. You may also experience diarrhea, constipation, bloating or nausea.
Excessive bleeding – If your menstrual periods are particularly heavy, or you experience bleeding between periods you should check in with your doctor.
Infertility – For people experiencing fertility issues, endometriosis may be an underlying cause. Tissue can attach itself to your reproductive organs and cause issues. If you work with a fertility specialist, they may run a variety of tests to investigate the potential issues involving this.
Pain during intercourse – it is common for people with endometriosis to feel pain during intercourse.
The cause of endometriosis is something that is still currently unknown, however there are a few things that have been identified as greater risk factors, or as common contributing factors;
Family history – if you have a relative with endometriosis you are up to 7 to 10 times more likely to also develop it
Retrograde menstruation – this occurs when period blood travels back toward the fallopian tubes and pelvis. If the endometrial cells from this blood stick onto the pelvic organs the endometrial tissue can start to grow.
Other potential contributing factors;
- Starting period young (before 11)
- Having first pregnancy at a later age
- Low body weight
- Alcohol use
- Poor immune system
Diagnosis & Treatment
Often endometriosis is found when a doctor is assessing a woman for a different reason, whether it’s during an operation or a check up.
The average time for diagnosis is currently 7 years, as this is a lesser known condition to many women.
To confirm that you have endometriosis you will have to have a laparoscopy. There is currently research into less invasive ways to diagnose including specialised ultrasound, but laparoscopic surgery is currently the only consistently reliable method.
When it comes to treatment, you will most likely need to be referred to a gynaecologist with specialist knowledge in this condition.
Treatment options can include physiotherapy, medicines, and surgery, and will depend on the severity of your symptoms and the stage of your endometriosis.
It’s important that you speak directly about your treatment with your doctors, and have them explain the different long term expectations you can have.
Dr. Kelvin Larwood is an obstetrician and gynaecologist who owns and operates a private clinic in Buderim and Noosa, Sunshine Coast.
Dr. Larwood has a special interest in surgery, and has years of experience with performing the surgery required to diagnose and treat endometriosis.
You can read more about how Dr. Larwood can assist you here.