What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a painful and debilitating condition. It is an inflammatory disease that is caused when lining (similar to what grows inside the uterus) grows outside the uterus. This is called endometrial tissue. This tissue can grow on other organs in the body which for example, include the bowel and bladder. Endometriosis is an extremely difficult disease to diagnose because there is no test available that can diagnose it. Furthermore, the array of presenting symptoms a woman will experience with this disease can be confused with other medical conditions.
Signs and symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Menstrual pain
- Pain during intercourse
- Excessive bleeding during period
- Issues related to fertility
- Lower back pain
- Irregular periods
- Pain during urination and an increase in frequency
4 stages of Endometriosis
Endometriosis presents itself in four stages, which are graded from I-IV. They are determined by the level of scarring or are referred to as adhesions. These adhesions can range from mild, moderate, or severe in degree.
Grade I (mild) – Small amounts of scar tissue around the pelvic region
Grade II (moderate) – Increased size and scale throughout the pelvic cavity with greater adhesions with potential early stages of spreading to the ovaries
Grade III-IV (severe) – The most advanced stages can see all pelvic organs covered as well as in most severe cases to the abdomen and bowel
Endometriosis can appear on ultrasound, however, this is usually only seen when the disease is in its later stages. Another method of diagnosis is performed via laparoscopy, which involves the extraction and biopsy of endometriotic tissue and is performed through keyhole surgery under general anaesthetic.
Sadly, there is no cure for endometriosis. Treatment options are available to women to reduce the pain and symptoms that come from having endometriosis. However, the symptoms of this disease cannot currently be cured.
Available treatment options for women include the contraceptive pill, an IUD (Mirena), pain relief or anti-inflammatory medications as well as surgical procedures. The use of an IUD or contraceptive work by reducing estrogen and progesterone hormones in the body which accelerate endometriosis. Surgical procedure options include endometrial ablation which is not a long term fix as the adhesions do grow back over time. The other surgical option is having a hysterectomy which does not remove adhesions that may have grown on other organs, only the uterus and ovaries.
There are alternative treatment methods that can help reduce pain. These options include visiting a physiotherapist, nutritionist or psychologist that can help to alleviate endometriosis symptoms by using other remedies and therapies that have helped many women that suffer from the disease.
Furthermore, current research is studying whether the ‘endo diet’ can help relieve gut issues caused by the disease. There is a possibility that eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids as well as reducing your caffeine intake can help to alleviate these gut symptoms.
Living with endometriosis can feel like you are fighting a constant battle. If you have been diagnosed with the disease, there are avenues of support available. The Endometriosis Australia foundation is a fantastic support system for women suffering from endometriosis. You can find more information and keep up to date with news and current research.
Adenomyosis occurs when endometrial tissue develops within the muscular wall of the uterus. Every menstrual cycle, the adenomyosis will increase in size and thickens. This causes the uterus to become swollen and enlarged. This condition causes severe pain and heavy periods. The adenomyosis growth can grow as a cluster or be concentrated into one area of the muscular wall, this singular mass growth is called adenomyoma.
Signs and symptoms
- Menstrual pain
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Iron deficiency or anaemia
- Pain during intercourse
- Pelvic pain
- Tenderness or enlargement of the pelvic region
Common risk factors for adenomyosis include age and genetics as well as having a past history of childbirth, uterine surgery, such as caesarean section, fibroid removal, or dilatation and curettage.
Adenomyosis can be difficult to diagnose because there is currently no test that can confirm whether or not you have the disease unless the uterus is biopsied following a hysterectomy. A transvaginal ultrasound potentially may pick up adenomyosis as well as an MRI. A woman suffering from adenomyosis may also present with tenderness and enlargement of the pelvic region upon vaginal examination.
There are 3 types of treatment options for adenomyosis, which include:
- Non-hormonal medication: pain-relief, anti-inflammatory and antifibrinolytic medication
- Hormone treatments: IUD (Mirena) and the contraceptive pill
- Surgical treatment: a full hysterectomy
The Jean Hailes organisation focuses purely on women’s health matters and provides fantastic support and information for Australian women who suffer from adenomyosis. Please visit their website by clicking here.
If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms, please book an appointment to see one of our doctors today. You can give us a call on (03) 9527 4355 or book online.