What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a hormonal and immune disease in which endometrial cells grow outside the uterine cavity, commonly on the membrane that lines the abdomen. Endometriosis usually affects the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining the pelvis. During the course of the menstruation cycle, these displaced endometrial cells will grow, thicken and bleed, causing pain where they are situated. Thus, women who have endometriosis suffer from immense abdomen or pelvic pain and painful periods.

What does Endometriosis mean for my fertility?

Between 20% and 40% of women who are infertile have endometriosis, while one-third of those with endometriosis will have fertility issues. This condition impairs fertility by either causing distortion in the fallopian tubes or by creating inflammation that affects the functioning of the egg, ovary, fallopian tubes or uterus.

Those with endometriosis also have an increased risk of developing:

  • Intestinal and bladder complications
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Ovarian cancer or endometriosis-associated adenocarcinoma

What causes Endometriosis?

The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown; however, some explanations include:

  • Menstrual flow problems
  • Retrograde menstruation
  • Transformation of peritoneal cells
  • Foetal development
  • Embryonic cell growth or transformation
  • Surgical scar implantation
  • Genetics
  • Hormones
  • Immune system disorder

What are the symptoms of Endometriosis?

  • Intense pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Painful menstrual period that is worse than usual
  • Pain with bowel movements or urination
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Infertility
  • Other symptoms during menstrual period include – nausea, bloating, fatigue, diarrhoea or constipation

How is endometriosis diagnosed?

Endometriosis is usually diagnosed with a laparoscopy in which a camera is used to view inside the abdomen. Endometriosis can be difficult to manage; however, early diagnosis may help you understand and treat your condition and its symptoms better.

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Although endometriosis can cause intense abdominal pain and painful menstrual cycles, there are successful treatment options. It is common in females to suffer from excruciating menstrual periods and pelvic pains. When you are presented with these symptoms, it is highly advisable to get a proper diagnosis, and if necessary, get the treatment. Treatment ensures a better quality of life and rules out any further complications associated with the condition.

How is Endometriosis treated?

Non-surgical treatment options for Endometriosis include:

  • Medications - Pain medications, anti-inflammatory drugs or prescription drugs for the treatment of painful menses.
  • Hormones – hormonal therapies such as hormonal birth control, Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) agonists and antagonists, Medroxyprogesterone (Depo-Provera) or Danazol. Hormonal intrauterine devices (IUD) may also be an option.
  • Fertility treatment such as via in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) may help those who suffer from endometriosis conceive a child.

If you have tried these treatments and failed to see results, surgical methods may be an option for you.

Surgical treatment options for Endometriosis include:

  • Surgical removal of the affected areas of endometriosis.
  • Burning of the endometriosis lesions of the uterus.
  • Rid the scar tissue to which the endometriosis is attached.

As a last resort, we may choose to treat your endometriosis with endometrial ablation, hysterectomy, hysterectomy with removal of both ovaries or the removal of the uterus.

Risk factors of endometriosis

Factors that place you at risk for developing endometriosis include:

  • Having never have given birth
  • Starting your period at an early age
  • Going through menopause at a later than normal stage
  • Having a short menstrual cycle which is less than 27 days
  • Having higher levels of oestrogen
  • Having a low body mass index (BMI)
  • Excess alcohol intake
  • Relatives with endometriosis
  • A medical condition that inhibits normal menstruation
  • Abnormalities of the uterus

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1Can Endometriosis be cured?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for endometriosis. Gynaecologists work with you to help manage your symptoms to ensure you maintain quality of life.

2What are the treatment options?

Your treatment will depend on your specific needs, and you may be prescribed birth control pills to help regulate your hormones and manage pain. In severe cases, surgery may be considered.

3Is surgery necessary?

Surgery is not always necessary to treat symptoms of endometriosis, however, it may be the only option to remove endometrial tissue that grows outside of the uterus.