March is endometriosis awareness month and a condition that doesn’t get enough airtime for the effects that is has on the quality of life for many women.
Endometriosis is a progressive condition affecting 1 in 10 women of reproductive age with an estimated 176 million women affected worldwide. There is a strong family association with developing endometriosis, where women who have a family member with the condition being 7-10 times more likely to develop endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a chronic condition where cells similar to those that line the uterus are found in other parts of the body, most commonly on or around reproductive organs in the pelvis such as on the outside of the uterus and fallopian tubes, ovaries as well as other areas such as the bladder and in the small or large bowel.
Some causes of endometriosis include:
Some other factors that further contribute to endometriosis are:
Factors lowering the risk of developing endometriosis:
The symptoms of endometriosis overlap with a number of other health problems, so mis-diagnosis and delayed diagnosis are common. Common symptoms include:
Symptom severity does not always indicate the extent of damage that endometriosis is causing to the body.
Endometriosis may be detected by a specialised scan, a doctor may feel affected tissue in the pelvis or see an endometriosis cyst on the ovaries or other organs or a growth of endometriosis tissue may be seen growing through the vagina.
The only way to know for sure however is to have a diagnosis made through a laparoscopy where a biopsy is taken of tissue. This procedure is performed under general anaesthetic where an assessment is made of the organs of the pelvis and abdomen. Tissue can be magnified and identified if it is affected by endometriosis. If this is the case, endometriosis can be removed and often providing symptom relief for most patients.
It is also important to note that there are different types of endometriosis; this is determined by the parts of the body affected by endometriosis.
There is unfortunately no known cure for endometriosis however, there are some management therapies to treat the condition and endometriosis does go away after menopause in cases where hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is not used.