Endometriosis is a painful reproductive system disorder in which the tissue that usually lines the inside of the uterus grows outside the uterus. Millions of women around the world suffer from endometriosis, which is the leading cause of infertility and chronic pelvic pain.
Although it can be a chronic and/or years-long disorder, it is diagnosable and treatable (though not curable).
The symptoms of endometriosis are often extremely unpleasant and include:
- Intensely painful menstrual cramps
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Painful intercourse
- Pain when urinating
- Pain and discomfort in the abdomen and/or bowel, including painful bowel movements, diahorrea, bloating and/or cramps, especially when menstruating
- Lower back pain
How does endometriosis affect fertility?
Endometriosis is classified as minimal, mild, moderate or severe, and the longer a woman suffers from the disorder, the greater her risk of infertility. These ‘stages’ may also be known as subtle, typical, cystic ovarian and deep.
It’s estimated that the disorder is responsible for up to a third of all infertility cases, but around 70% of women who suffer from mild to moderate endometriosis can still fall pregnant.
Endometriosis can cause infertility because adhesions that affect the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes can inhibit the passage of ova (eggs) to the fallopian tubes. It can also stop the ovaries from releasing eggs, and can decrease the number and quality of healthy eggs being released.
How is endometriosis diagnosed and treated?
Endometriosis can be difficult to diagnose, as many of the symptoms are similar to other disorders or illnesses.
Your gynae or healthcare provider will take a full medical history and perform a physical examination. If s/he suspects you may suffer from endometriosis, s/he’ll most likely conduct an ultrasound and possibly an MRI scan, followed by a laparoscopy in order to take a tissue sample. A laparoscopy, also known as keyhole surgery, is a procedure whereby a thin tube with a camera on the end is inserted into the abdomen, often via the belly button.
Although there is no cure for endometriosis, it can be managed in order to reduce pain and improve fertility. Treatment options include medication and different types of surgery, ranging from conservative to aggressive, depending on the type and stage of the disorder.
Some women find relief through dietary changes, acupuncture, medicated IUD and certain birth control options.
Where to go for help
If you think you may be suffering from endometriosis, you’ll need to begin with a physical examination. Make an appointment to see your healthcare provider, or find your nearest Marie Stopes centre and make an appointment online.