Endometriosis is a chronic condition that affecting a woman’s reproductive organs. It happens when the cells lining the inner layer of the uterus (called the endometrium) grow outside of it.
Often endometriosis is found on and around the pelvic and abdominal organs, including the ovaries. Rarely, the endometrial tissue is found in other parts of the body.
Pain is a key symptom of this condition and is not related to how severe the disease is, but to the location of endometrial tissue.
Pain experienced can vary from immediately before or after your period and/or sex, abdominal, back or pelvic pain, ovulation pain, heavy bleeding or longer periods, urination pain and even thigh pain.
A healthy lifestyle, pain relief medications, hormone therapy such as the oral contraceptive pill and progestins are among the many options to manage and treat endometriosis. Several surgical options including laparoscopy, laparotomy and hysterectomy are also available and would be discussed during your consultation.
The right treatment for you will depend on your symptoms, the severity of the condition and whether you are trying to become pregnant or maintain your ability to have children.
About one in three women with endometriosis discover they have it because they have not been able to conceive, or because endometriosis is found incidentally during an operation for another reason.
A laparoscopy is the best way to visualise and diagnose endometriosis. This is an operation where a thin tube (telescope) with a light (laparoscope) is inserted into the abdomen through a cut in the belly button and allows the gynaecologist to see if there is any endometriosis within the pelvis. Other pathology and abnormal tissue can be diagnosed at the same time. Some of the tissue is removed so it can be examined under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis of endometriosis.
Depending on the amount of endometriosis seen, and the amount of scarring, it may be classified as mild, moderate or severe; or by stages 1 through to 4. However, the stage of endometriosis does not correlate well with the woman’s symptoms, and women with even a small deposit of endometriosis can have very severe and debilitating pain.