Everything you need to know about endometriosis
There are loads of kick-ass benefits of being a woman. From shamelessly trying out new beauty trends to the joy of investing in special occasion lingerie, sometimes it’s just bloody great to be a chick #girlpower. However, having boobs, a uterus and a vagina does mean we’re subject to particular health concerns that men aren’t. Regular breast checks and pap smears are a must for women to stay on top of their health, however there are some conditions that can go unnoticed or undiagnosed simply because we’re not educated about them. One such condition is endometriosis. I speak to Dr Anne Poliness and Dr Georgiana Tang from the City Fertility Centre to find out the causes and symptoms of this condition and how women can be treated.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition affecting the uterus and occurs when “endometrial cells (womb lining) grow in the wrong place outside the uterus. These cells can alter the environment of the pelvis and the reproductive tract.”
How is it caused?
So, we all know that when we get our period each month, we are shedding the lining of our uterus. Well, that lining is made up of endometrial cells. When menstrual bleeding occurs, some of these cells can land in the pelvis. Dr Poliness explains that the endometrial cells and tissue are “usually absorbed by normal body channels”. However, in some women the tissue fails to be absorbed and continues to grow outside of the uterus. This is how endometriosis is caused.
Who is susceptible?
There is no definitive reason why some women can suffer from endometriosis while others may not. “It is likely that there is some genetic component to endometriosis as sometimes females in the same family are affected; however genetics is likely to be only part of the reason that a woman gets endometriosis, ” says Dr Poliness.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of endometriosis are not the same for everyone. In fact, some women experience no symptoms at all which is why the condition can often go undetected. Symptoms that are common in sufferers include:
- Severe period pain
- Painful intercourse
- Heavy periods
Another symptom of endometriosis is that some women can have trouble falling pregnant. “If a couple has been unable to conceive after trying for 12 months, then endometriosis can be present in 30-50 per cent of [these] cases. The reasons why endometriosis causes fertility problems are likely to be due to changes in the womb lining tissue.”
How can it be treated?
When it comes to diagnosis, Dr Poliness tells us that a laparoscopy (keyhole surgery) is almost always required, as quite often “the endometrial tissue deposits are too small to show up on examination or ultrasound.” However, the good news is that if a laparoscopy is required, the tissue is usually treated or removed at the same time. Other treatments include hormone medication which can be effective in relieving the pain, however you cannot fall pregnant while on this medication.
Dr Tang offers her top tips for women suffering from endometriosis:
Seek help early if you are experiencing any symptoms of endometriosis, especially if your symptoms have been worsening or if you are planning to fall pregnant in the near future.
Blood tests and pelvic ultrasounds are helpful tools that doctors can organise for you to get more information.
- Surgery may or may not be necessary and your doctor is the best person to advise you on how to confirm the diagnosis, the need for treatment, and the implications of endometriosis on your health and fertility.
Do you suffer from endometriosis? Did you know about these symptoms and treatments?