What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a progressive and chronic condition that affects as many as one in nine Australian women who are in their forties. It can cause extreme pain and lead to infertility. Endometriosis pain can affect a woman’s quality of life and prevent her from taking part in daily activities like work, education, hobbies and home care.
Over time, endometriosis can lead to scarring and inflammation in the pelvis, which can cause the internal organs to stick together.
Even though there currently isn’t a cure for endometriosis there are treatment options available that can make it more manageable to live with. Physiotherapist support may prove to be helpful for some women. Many women with endometriosis go on to conceive babies.
The Stages Of Endometriosis
The condition is usually diagnosed in stages:
Stage 1 (mild)
Some patches of endometriosis can be found inside the pelvis
Stage 2 and 3 (moderate)
The endometriosis is scattered more widely and can be found in other parts of the pelvis as well as the ovaries. Scarring and adhesions may be visible.
Stage 4 (severe)
The endometriosis has spread to most of the organs in the pelvis
What Are The Symptoms Of Endometriosis?
While it is possible to have endometriosis and not experience any symptoms, some women may experience:
- Heavy or irregular periods that may feature blood clots. Bleeding for longer than usual may also be an indication of endometriosis
- Bleeding between periods
- Pelvic or abdominal pain during and before a period, during or after sex and when going to the toilet. The pain may even be in your leg or thigh and it may worsen over time
- Being bloated, perhaps with pain
- Extreme tiredness around your period
- Bleeding from the bowel or bladder
- Anxiety or depression associated with endometriosis pain
What Causes Endometriosis?
The exact causes of the condition are still under research, but certain risk factors have been identified:
- When pelvis tissue turns into endometriosis, in a condition called metaplasia
- Genetics also plays a role. Women who have a family history of the disease are seven to ten times more likely to develop it
- Retrograde menstruation occurs when some menstrual fluid travels back up the Fallopian tubes and enters the pelvis. Sometimes the cells get stuck to organs in the pelvis and start growing.
Other risk factors of interest include
- Long or heavy periods
- Starting your period before the age of 11
- Having low body weight
- A compromised immune system
- Becoming pregnant for the first time when you’re older
- Drinking alcohol
What Treatment Options Are Available For Endometriosis?
Endometriosis can be treated with a combination of medications, surgery and physiotherapist support. The type of treatment most suitable for you will depend on
- How severe your condition is
- What your symptoms are
- Whether you want to be pregnant
Managing your stress and pain response is very important when you have endometriosis, particularly if you do want to fall pregnant. Feeling stressed or anxious about your inability to conceive can push you into a cycle that is difficult to get out of. Some women find it beneficial to speak to a therapist or psychologist.
Medicines to treat endometriosis are usually hormone-based treatments and pain relief. Hormone treatments may help to reduce the size of the cellular growths.
Sometimes surgical treatments are necessary to remove growths. Other times surgery may be combined with medications.
Physiotherapist support can help you with bowel and bladder problems, as well as with pain management. When we are in pain or uncomfortable, exercise and movement may not be top of your mind. Having the right physiotherapist support can help to ease you through painful periods, releasing natural pain-relieving endorphins. Having physiotherapy can also help you to relax and release your pelvis. Many women who experience pelvic pain tend to overwork the area and need to be shown how to release it.
It is also possible to treat endometriosis but still experience pain. Your healthcare practitioner will discuss your symptoms and long term health goals with you, to find a treatment solution that offers you the best quality of life.
If you still have questions about what is endometriosis or are exhibiting any of the symptoms, it’s best to speak to a professional. Please contact us for an appointment: (02) 9884 9300.