What is endometriosis?
Endo is a common condition affecting women, causing:
- period pain
- pain with intercourse
While there are lots of theories as to why this disease occurs, the exact cause is unknown.
“A number of theories have pros and cons. These fall into 2 camps. Either “retrograde menstruation”, or the transformation of peritoneal cells into endometriotic cells."
Occasionally endo can occur in surgical wounds.
The classic sign of endometriosis is pelvic or lower abdominal pain, just before your period starts and continuing through the period. Sometimes endometriosis can cause an alteration in bowel or bladder function around the time of your period, or pain when you are using your bladder or bowels. It can be associated with heavy periods and pain with intercourse. Endo can also cause infertility and as such, not being able to conceive can be a symptom of endometriosis.
There is no clear, easy way to diagnose this condition. The “gold standard” involves surgery, with excision of endometriosis and histological testing to confirm the diagnosis. Your medical history and an ultrasound can provide clues to the diagnosis. Ultrasound will not show small deposits of endometriosis and your symptoms are important then to make a diagnosis.
All standard contraceptives, such as the pill, Mirena or Implanon, have a moderate effect on endo, helping with the pain but also slowing the progression of the condition.
Surgery can help, with excision of all visible endometriosis and normalisation of anatomy if there is scarring or adhesions. Medications to induce a temporary medical menopause, such as Zoladex, are occasionally used after big endometriosis surgeries to prevent recurrence of the disease and to allow healing.
Gynaecologist and Fertility Specialist of WA
Am I infertile when I have endometriosis?
Endo is common and there are many women who complete their families without difficulty, despite having this condition. One in nine Australian women will develop endometriosis by the age of 44. There is evidence that laparoscopic treatment of mild or minimal endometriosis improves subsequent pregnancy rates, but only a little bit. It is estimated that 12 women would need surgery for 1 extra pregnancy.
Endo becomes more common and tends to be worse as you get older and have more periods. It also acts together with other things that make fertility more difficult.
“I tend to reserve surgery for those women with evidence of bulky endometriosis on ultrasound and those women who have specific symptoms such as pain with intercourse, where sometimes quite small amounts of endometriosis cause disproportionate symptoms.”
Like a lot of areas in Women’s Health, it can feel like you are the only one afflicted with a set of symptoms. Getting a firm diagnosis in itself can be difficult. We can do this together. There is lots of support and treatments available to help with endo.
For more information, please visit the World Endometriosis Society website.
Why Dr Richard Murphy as your gynaecologist?
Endo is a tricky condition to diagnose and the treatment will vary depending on your stage of life. Together we can take the time to get to the bottom of your symptoms and find the best treatment for you.
As a gynaecologist, I have always supported my patients from all around Western Australia and in the Perth metro area, with this mindset of care and support. I believe that when you are well-informed with accurate information for you then you are less susceptible to information overload and can make better decisions. If your condition is causing fertility problems, then I am even more aware of the impact it can have on your life, your family dynamics and your wellbeing. So if you have any concerns about this condition, please contact my practice.