What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis happens when the cells which line the uterus grow in other parts of the abdomen. It affects as many as 1 in 10 women, and often causes severe pain which stops them from living their lives normally.
Although endometriosis can affect fertility, many women who suffer from it can still get pregnant and have children.
What causes Endometriosis?
The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown, but many factors can impact its appearance and how severe it becomes. These can include:
Family History - if your mother, grandmother, aunt, or sister has been diagnosed with endometriosis, you may have a higher chance of developing it.
Retrograde Menstruation - blood lost during your monthly period doesn't just fall out of the vagina, but also backward into the pelvis. This is usually absorbed by the body, but can start to grow in women with endometriosis.
Hormone Fluctuation - smoking, drinking, early puberty, late pregnancy, and immune system changes can all influence your hormone levels, contributing to endometriosis.
Being Overweight - your body weight can influence your oestrogen levels, which can influence the development of endometriosis and its symptoms.
How do you know if you have it?
Pain is the more common symptom of endometriosis, and it can present in a number of ways. These include:
- During intercourse
- During your period (this may be especially painful)
- During ovulation
- At any other time of the month
- When you go to the toilet
Aside from pain, you may also:
- Have heavy bleeding during your period, or pass a lot of clots
- Have an irregular period cycle
- Feel especially sick or tired
- Have changes in bowel motions
- Experience bloating and pelvic floor spasms
- Have fertility issues
It's important to remember that every woman is different, and not all women have the same signs of endometriosis. You may have different symptoms or severity to other women - don't let this stop you from seeking treatment.
How do i get diagnosed?
A variety of tests may be used to help rule out other causes for your symptoms (such as a pelvic exam, colonoscopy, ultrasound, or blood test). However, the only sure way to check for endometriosis is through a laparoscopy. In this procedure, your doctor will use a small camera to look inside your abdomen for endometrial tissue outside the uterus. Laparoscopy can also be used to remove endometriosis.
Based on the results of these tests, your doctor may prescribe treatment or refer you to a specialist. You can ask to be referred to Dr Homar at Toowoomba Obstetrics and Gynaecology for further treatment by mentioning us to your doctor.
How is endometriosis treated?
Since endometriosis doesn’t yet have a cure, treatment is focussed on relieving and managing pain and preventing it from interfering with your life. To help manage endometriosis, your doctor may recommend:
- Lifestyle modification – changing your diet, using relaxation methods, or doing stretches and exercises may help manage your pain. Dr Homar will be able to make recommendations.
- Natural therapies – some women find these helpful in managing endometriosis. Herbal medicines, massage, and yoga may be beneficial.
- Medication – hormone therapy and other medication may be recommended to reduce symptoms and pain
- Surgery – surgical procedures can be used to further investigate your endometriosis or remove built-up endometrial tissue.
There’s no ‘right’ treatment for endometriosis, which is why it’s important to determine a course of action ideal for you. Your gynaecologist can help you create a management plan to keep endometriosis from interfering with your life.