Introduction to Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a disease affecting women, where tissue that is normally found inside of the uterus, is found outside of it.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a disease affecting women, where tissue that is normally found inside of the uterus, is found outside of it. This causes problems which vary from patient to patient depending on where the external tissue is located and its size.
The tissue is commonly found outside the womb, in the ovaries and fallopian tubes, bowel, bladder or inside the abdomen lining. The problem is usually a long-term condition and symptoms vary from nothing to pain, abnormal bleeding and fertility problems.
Endometriosis is a fairly common condition affecting around 2 million women in the UK, most between 25 and 40 years of age. It rarely occurs in postmenopausal women.
What causes Endometriosis?
The cause of endometriosis isn’t well known. It is thought that it may be caused by endometrial tissue not being completely cleared during the menstrual cycle and therefore, remaining in the body and implanting in the pelvic area.
What are the symptoms of Endometriosis?
Symptoms vary and some women experience no problems at all. The commonest symptoms include pain, heavy periods and abnormal bleeding (between periods and from the back passage). The pain can occur in the lower abdomen, pelvic area, whilst going the toilet, during or after sexual intercourse and can also present in the lower back. The tissue can sometimes be present in abnormal places that can affect the function of these organs. As the tissue can be found in the ovaries, fallopian tubes or outside of the womb, it can cause issues with fertility and it may be difficult to get pregnant. Patients can also be fatigued and tired throughout the day. In rare cases, the tissue can be found in the lung, causing haemoptysis (coughing up blood).
How is Endometriosis treated?
Your doctor will take a detailed history and perform an examination to work out what is causing your problem. They will need to perform investigations to rule out other causes of your symptoms and such common investigations include ultrasound scans.
The only way to confirm a diagnosis of endometriosis is through a surgical laparoscopy. This is where you are put to sleep, and a thin tube is inserted into your body to try and find any endometriosis tissue. The doctors can take a biopsy of this tissue and look at it under a microscope to determine if it is this type of tissue. They may find something else that could explain your symptoms.
The management for endometriosis varies depending on the impact it has on a person’s life. The pain can be managed with medications (pain killers) and you may be sent for hormone injections which can help improve symptoms.
There is no cure, however surgery may help improve your symptoms and chances of getting pregnant by attempting to remove the abnormal tissue.