Endometriosis – do you know what it is?
Endometriosis is a condition that affects up to 1 in 9 Australian women. With a likely connection to genetics, do you know if you have a family history of endometriosis?
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis occurs when tissue from the inner lining of the womb grows outside the womb, usually in the pelvis. It tends to cause severe menstrual pain and often, difficulty in conceiving.
The lining layer itself is called the endometrium – this is what is shed during your regular cycle and where an early pregnancy is laid down. The diagnosis is often made by your GP and it can be confirmed by laparoscopy (“keyhole surgery”), where the abdominal and pelvic organs are examined via a tiny incision in your umbilicus, or “belly button”. This allows the Surgeon to look at what is going on and take a sample (biopsy) for further analysis.
Who is at risk?
Any woman can be affected by endometriosis. It is a progressive, chronic condition. It can be very painful, it can affect fertility and can impair activities of daily living, causing pain and discomfort. It can prevent women from participating fully in education, work or sporting activities.
Although we don’t have an exact reason for its occurrence, there are many contributing factors and common symptoms that can suggest the diagnosis.
What are the signs and symptoms of Endometriosis?
- Pain is the most common symptom: severe abdominal, pelvic or back pain, most commonly accompanying the menstrual period, but sometimes occurring during sexual activity or when going to the toilet.
- Heavy periods or irregular bleeding, sometimes with clots.
- Bowel and/or bladder problems, such as bloating, or needing to urinate more frequently.
- Mood Swings, depression or lethargy.
Because these symptoms usually accompany the menstrual cycle, Endometriosis can initially be neglected as “severe” period pains and aches. If you think you may have Endometriosis, inform your GP straight away and keep track of any new issues or symptoms that may arise.
Important things to tell your GP are:
*Specifics about your cycle: length of cycle, length of periods, and irregularity, severity of pain/ bleeding
*How this is affecting you mentally
*Are you trying to get pregnant?
*How long this has been happening
The first step, as always, is to make an appointment. Your GP may talk to you about medication to help relieve the pain and symptoms, as well as other lifestyle changes that can help you manage the effects overall. In some cases your GP may refer you to a gynaecologist for more investigation.
What can you do to manage your Endometriosis?
There are three main options available:
- Medication in some instances can help relieve discomfort and reduce your symptoms
- Surgery, often a last resort. Your GP will discuss all of the points that you need to know before undergoing any type of surgical procedure
- Complementary therapy, for less severe symptoms, e.g. physiotherapy or specific body exercise regimes such as yoga
A plan can be tailored to your specific needs by your GP and you may need to try more than one type of treatment to find what works best for you. Pain can’t always be eliminated, however a better management plan is often the best way forward with Endometriosis and its symptoms.
Endometriosis and Fertility
A small percentage of women with Endometriosis can become infertile. But for most, it’s not impossible; it may just take a little longer to get pregnant. This is because the tissue itself is growing in places (or forming scar tissue) that make it difficult for implantation of the fertilised
ovum. The good news is that an estimated 70% of women with mild to moderate endometriosis will get pregnant without treatment.
Mental Health and Endometriosis
What can often be forgotten are the mental side effects of this disease.
Being side lined with severe pain every few weeks or having difficulty conceiving, can take its toll on your frame of mind and wellbeing.
Remember, you’re not alone; talking to friends and family can often reveal others suffering from the same condition.
Our friendly GPs are here to help with supportive, proactive and confidential advice and
steps to a healthier and happier you.
Make a BULK BILLED appointment to speak to an Active Medical GP.
BOOK ONLINE, call 9363 0954 or visit Active Medical 228-232 Caroline Springs BLVD, Caroline Springs.
The Australian site for Endometriosis can be found at endometriosisaustralia.org