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What is endometriosis?

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1 in 10 women suffer from endometriosis, but what is it?

200 million women worldwide are impacted by endometriosis, but it’s estimated that millions more remain undiagnosed.

Endometriosis can have a massive effect on a women’s day-to-day life and stop them from functioning normally. Doctors are still unsure what causes endometriosis, however, treatments are available for women who have the disease.

The Facts

According to the experts at House Call Doctor, endometriosis is an inflammatory condition where the endometrium grows outside of the uterus.The endometrium is the name given to the tissue that grows on the inside of a woman’s uterus and is shed during menstruation each month.

In endometriosis, this tissue can grow on the ovaries, fallopian tubes and intestines.The growth can be graded from stage 1-stage 5, with stage 5 being the most severe but most rare.

This incorrect growth can be extremely painful and can reduce a woman’s infertility if it’s left undiagnosed and untreated.house call doctor

 

Causes

While there is still no known cause of endometriosis, there are a number of factors that may make you more likely to be at risk of having the condition.

The potential factors include:

  • Genetic factors
  • Family history
  • Problems with your menstrual cycle
  • Retrograde or ‘backwards’ menstruations
  • Allergies
  • Obesity
  • Environmental factors.

The Symptoms

Endometriosis symptoms are often incorrectly blamed on periods.Usually no medical advice is sought because many women believe their pain levels are normal.Endometriosis can also have symptoms that don’t appear linked to the reproductive system and an estimated 40% of women have no pain at all.

This leaves many women unaware they have the condition until they have difficulty getting pregnant and see a GP or gynaecologist.

Other endometriosis symptoms that can occur include:

  • Pain with bowel movements at period time
  • Pain during penetrative sex
  • Pain in the lower back, lower abdomen, pelvis, rectum, and vagina
  • Abnormal menstruation
  • Heavy and/or irregular menstruation
  • Spotting
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Bladder symptoms
  • Nausea

Diagnosis

The only way to diagnose endometriosis with 100 per cent certainty is to undergo keyhole surgery (laparoscopy) and have a tissue sample taken and tested in a lab.

This surgery is performed under local anaesthetic and lets the doctor see inside the abdomen and locate even small amounts tissue. In most cases, all tissue that is suspected to have endometrium is removed during the surgery as well.

Surgical diagnosis may not be necessary if your doctor is able to feel the tissues in your pelvis that are affected by endometriosis, see a cyst on your ovary, or see endometriosis growth in the vagina.

Treatment

There are three main categories of endometriosis treatment available.

Treatment varies depending on the severity of the disease and the symptoms being experienced.

  1. Surgical Treatment: this is the removal of the endometrial tissue via laparoscopy
  2. Medications: these are hormone medications, usually a form of birth control, that help the reproductive system regulate its activity
  3. Supportive-care treatments: these treatments include GP monitoring, physiotherapy, psychology, nutrition, and alternative medicine.

Which treatment or what combination of treatments is best for you should be discussed with your doctor.If you have no pain or fertility concerns with your endometriosis, you many not need to seek treatment. Regular check-ups with your doctors are a good way to monitor your condition.

If you experience painful periods or think you have endometriosis symptoms, please contact your GP.