Endometriosis Awareness by Dr Victoria Beyer
March 3, 2023
Endometriosis is a chronic condition that affects at least 1 in 10 Australian women, girls, and people who are gender diverse. The condition usually starts in adolescence and diagnosis is often delayed by many years.
Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue, which normally lines the uterus, is found in abnormal sites around the pelvis and other parts of the body. Every time menstruation occurs, these endometrial tissue deposits also bleed, causing a chronic inflammatory reaction and scar tissue formation.
People can have endometriosis without experiencing symptoms, but the most common symptoms include:
- Painful menstrual cramps which may worsen over time
- Chronic pelvic and back pain
- Pain during or after sex
- Digestive problems including constipation, bloating, or nausea
- Difficulty falling pregnant
If you are concerned about menstrual problems or endometriosis, your GP should be the first port of call. They may conduct a physical examination and recommend investigations including blood tests, a cervical screening test or an ultrasound to rule out other conditions and check for signs of endometriosis such as ovarian cysts.
If your GP feels you may have endometriosis, you may then be referred to a gynaecologist to have a laparoscopy. This is a keyhole surgery during which endometriosis can be accurately diagnosed.
Currently there is no cure for endometriosis but there are different treatment options including:
- Medical treatments – pain medications, hormone treatments such as the contraceptive pill, IUD or implants.
- Surgery – during a laparoscopy, endometriosis deposits and scar tissue can be removed via excision (cutting it out) or ablation (burning it off).
- Allied health treatments (physiotherapy, psychology, alternative medicine).
You can discuss the different treatment options with your doctor. There are advantages and disadvantages for each and you may need to try a few before finding what works for you.
Endometriosis is a common and debilitating condition, and the earlier it is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. Severe period pain is not normal and can be treated so if you are in doubt, chat to your GP.
For more information, visit Endometriosis Australia.