What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a painful condition whereby the tissue that normally lines the uterus (endometrium) grows outside the uterus. This may be on the ovaries, pelvic sidewalls, fallopian tubes, although it’s rarely found spreading beyond the pelvic organs. Occasionally it may affect the bladder.
The tissue acts as if it is still in the uterus, so it follows the hormonal menstrual cycle – it thickens, breaks down and bleeds. The bleed can’t exit the body so it remains in the pelvis. It irritates the surrounding tissues, leading to scar tissue and adhesions. Adhesions are bands of fibrous tissue, that stick organs together or to the pelvic side wall.
The bleeding in the pelvic cavity can cause severe pain, especially during the menstrual period, sex and when going to the toilet. If an ovary is affected, an endometriotic cyst may form. This is often seen in women who suffer from infertility, although it’s not a direct cause of infertility in itself.
What Are The Stages Of Endometriosis?
There are four stages of endometriosis, starting at I (mild) through to IV (severe). However, the severity of the endometriosis does not correspond to the level of pain or other symptoms. The stage of endometriosis depends on where it is located in the pelvis and how widespread it is.
It’s important to note that just because you may have a mild form of endometriosis, this does not necessarily mean it will progress to a more severe form.
What Are The Symptoms?
- Pelvic pain that starts just before menstruation and reduces afterwards
- Cramping abdominal pain
- Painful sexual intercourse (dyspareunia)
- Pain during bowel movements or during urination leading to diarrhoea, urinary frequency or urgency
- Infertility (*endometriosis is not a cause for infertility but causes certain things that themselves can lead to infertility)
How Is A Diagnosis Made?
Dr Penman has the expertise to diagnose endometriosis from the patient history, in-clinic examination and, usually, a pelvic scan. A laparoscopy (minimally invasive surgical procedure performed under general anaesthetic with no need to stay overnight in hospital) may well be required. This enables Dr Penman to assess the stage of endometriosis, and consider what the best form of treatment would be.
What Are The Treatment Options?
Pain relief medication can be prescribed to help deal with endometriosis, particularly for early-stage endometriosis.
Temporary Stopping Of Periods
Medication can be prescribed to cease the menstrual cycle for a period of several months to allow the endometriotic areas to heal and, therefore, alleviate the symptoms.
Under a general anaesthetic, a laparoscopy can be used to remove any visible endometriosis implantations, scar tissue or endometrial cysts on ovaries that may be causing pain or infertility.
PLEASE NOTE: Surgery is not always a viable treatment option if the endometriosis is widespread and severe. Dr Penman is an expert in the field of endometriosis and will discuss your results with you, offering you the best options to treat your level of the condition.
To make an appointment to see Dr Penman, please click on the blue appointment button below.
Alternatively, please visit the Contact Us page and ring either the Spire Alexandra Hospital or KIMS.