Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a painful, chronic condition for around one in ten Australian women, and in some cases, can lead to infertility. Endometriosis is present when the tissue, that is similar to the lining of the uterus (the womb) occurs outside this layer and causes pain. The lining layer is called the endometrium and this is the layer of tissue that is shed each month with menstruation (a period) or where pregnancy settles and grows.

Causes of Endometriosis

There is no one cause but a number of factors, which may include:

  • genetics
  • environmental effects for example, chemicals, toxins, viruses
  • the type of endometrium you have, and
  • the flow of blood and the endometrium during a period, meaning that during menstruation the menstrual tissue passes backwards through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvis where it attaches and grows.

Diagnosis

A diagnosis is made when patients undergo a laparoscopy to have a biopsy taken. A laparoscopy is a surgical procedure, performed under a general anaesthetic where a thin telescope is placed into the belly button allowing the surgeon to see inside your abdomen and assess the organs of the pelvis as well as the abdomen. Any tissue that appears to be endometriosis is removed and tested by a pathologist to confirm the suspected diagnosis.

Impact on your health

The painful symptoms can impact your health as well as your mental well-being. In some cases, life will need to be ‘on hold’ around or during a women’s period. Most often, endometriosis affects the reproductive organs, and can also be found in the bowel and bladder. Common symptoms of endometriosis include:

  • period pain
  • pain during sex
  • pelvic pain at other times of the menstrual cycle
  • back pain
  • low energy
  • pain passing a bowel motion.

Note: all of these symptoms have other possible causes.

Some women who have difficulty becoming pregnant are found to have endometriosis without experiencing any of these symptoms.

Treatment

Treatment options come down to a patient’s needs and the severity of the patient’s symptoms. At Women’s Health on Strickland, we work with each individual patient to explain their options and help them understand what is involved at each step. These treatments include, but are not limited to, non-invasive and invasive options.

  • Non-invasive can be a holistic approach which includes natural remedies, lifestyle changes, hydrotherapy, hypnotherapy. We also engage a physiotherapist and pain management specialist. We adopt a multi disciplinary approach as we believe this is the best outcomes for our patients.
  • Invasive can be a conservative approach which includes surgical options. For patients who are struggling to conceive, laparoscopy surgery, combined with medicine, is an option. During this procedure, we remove as much of the disease as possible to enhance fertility. For patients who have completed their family and have not responded to previous treatment, a hysterectomy is an option.

Lifestyle changes

There are a number of lifestyle changes that can help women manage endometriosis. These include:

  • increasing the amount of fibre in your diet
  • exercising and losing weight. The number of fat cells increase in the body of overweight women, which produces more oestrogen increasing hormone levels
  • avoiding alcohol, smoking and excess sugar.

We recommend gentle exercise such as, yoga and meditation to help with the painful symptoms of endometriosis. By quietening your mind and relaxing your muscles, these relaxation techniques can help you cope with the emotional stress that often accompanies chronic or recurrent pain.

Yoga

Relaxation techniques for managing endometriosis and pelvic pain include yoga. If you would like to attend the Canberra Yoga group, contact Martha at martha@grapevine.com.au

Support groups

Canberra endometriosis (and pelvic pain) network
facebook.com/endometriosiscanberra
facebook.com/canberraendometriosisnetwork
email: canberraendometriosisnetwork@gmail.com

Online forum – www.myendometriosisteam.com/

Endometriosis Australia
www.endometriosisaustralia.org/

Canberra Endometriosis Centre
www.health.act.gov.au/our-services/women-youth-and-children/gynaecology-and-womens-health/canberra-endometriosis-centre

Women’s Health and Research Institute of Australia
www.whria.com.au

EndoActive Australia and New Zealand
http://endoactive.com.au

Pain Australia
www.painaustralia.org.au

Allied Health Professions Australia (AHPA)
www.ahpa.com.au/Home.aspx

GAIN covers all gynaecological issues.
www.gain.org.au

Australiasian Gynaecological Endoscopy and Surgery Society Limited
http://ages.com.au

SAFE – Sonographic Association for Endometriosis
http://www.safe-endo.com.au

Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia
www.pelvicpain.org.au

Endometriosis Association of Victoria
www.endometriosis.org.au