What is endometriosis?
It is estimated that around two million women in the UK suffer from this extremely painful and common condition.
The problem occurs when the cells which normally line your womb, and which thicken up over the course of each month, are found outside the womb, typically on the lining of the pelvis, or in association with the ovaries, tubes and sometimes even the bowel. Despite being located in the wrong place, they still go through the monthly thickening-up process, causing pain as a result. The pain is typically relieved after your period is over. Each time these small deposits flare up and cause pain, the body undergoes a process of repair following that inflammation and this can lead to problems with internal scarring (adhesions).
After an internal examination and ultrasound scan, a laparoscopy (keyhole surgery) operation is commonly recommended, both for the diagnosis and the treatment of endometriosis.
Click here to read about the treatment(s) involved in treating Endometriosis. If you would like more information or wish to make an appointment regarding endometriosis, please get in contact.
Symptoms of endometriosis
The most common symptoms of endometriosis are painful periods, pain before periods and pain with sexual intercourse. Some patients will complain of difficulties falling pregnant and some patients will complain of pain when they open their bowels, particularly before and during the time of menstruation. Sometimes there is a family history of endometriosis problems, but not always. For some patients, symptoms can improve when taking the oral contraceptive pill or during pregnancy. Symptoms can begin in teenage years, but are most commonly described in the 20s and 30s.
Many women suffer with endometriosis pain without the diagnosis ever having been made. If your symptoms fit into this pattern then a gynaecological referral would be appropriate so that suitable tests and treatment can be considered. You will require a physical examination, including an internal examination, and almost certainly an ultrasound scan. The final diagnosis is made at laparoscopy. This is a surgical procedure where a 1cm diameter telescope is passed through the umbilicus (tummy button). The telescope carries a light into the abdomen and pelvis and is attached to a digital camera which enables us to see clear images of the uterus, tubes, ovaries and pelvic lining on a TV screen.
Treatment for endometriosis
If the diagnosis is confirmed, then treatment can commence. It is commonly recommended that deposits of endometriosis are surgically destroyed or removed, aiming to leave behind healthy structures which function normally and result in reduced levels of pain. In this way, patients can usually avoid having their womb, tubes or ovaries removed, although in severe cases this is sometimes necessary. Having this sort of surgery not only helps with pain but can also help with the chances of falling pregnant. Surgery, of course, is not without some risks and these would be explained to you.
Some patients with endometriosis require highly skilled laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery for the treatment of their disease and such treatment is available through Gynaechoice.
Another treatment option includes hormonal therapy. This treatment can be successful in reducing your pain symptoms although it can be associated with side effects. Plus, when treatment is discontinued, symptoms usually recur.