Endometriosis is a painful women's health condition that can impact fertility. The condition causes tissue found in the lining of your uterus, known as endometrial tissue, to grow outside of your uterus. It's common for endometrial tissue to be found on the bladder, bowel and Fallopian tubes of women who have endometriosis. This abnormal tissue growth can cause inflammation, as your body identifies it as a foreign object. This can lead to scar tissue forming, which can lead to complications, including preventing your eggs being fertilised, painful menstruation and bacterial infections. Endometriosis is a chronic condition, but there are treatment options available that can bring relief for many women suffering with this condition. Here's an overview of three treatment options:
During your menstrual cycle, changes in your hormone levels can cause endometrial tissue to thicken and bleed, which can exacerbate your symptoms. Hormone therapy can help control your symptoms and bring relief from pain by preventing endometrial tissue from growing or spreading further. This treatment uses drugs to lower oestrogen levels and block the production of hormones that stimulate your ovaries. As a result, endometrial tissue can shrink, and menstruation will stop. You won't be able to conceive while undergoing hormone therapy, but your normal menstrual cycle will return if you stop treatment.
Laparoscopic surgery to remove endometrial tissue that's grown outside of the uterus can reduce pain and inflammation, and this treatment is particularly beneficial to those trying to conceive, as blockages and scar tissue can be removed to allow eggs to travel freely along the fallopian tubes and implant in the uterus. Laparoscopic surgery is preferred over open surgery, as there's an increased risk of further scar tissue developing when you have open abdominal surgery. A flexible tube called a laparoscope, which allows your surgeon to see inside your abdominal cavity, is inserted through a small incision near your belly button. Another small incision is made in your lower abdomen, and this is used to insert surgical instruments to remove tissue. After surgery, you may experience pain for a few days, but you should notice an improvement in your symptoms relatively quickly.
If you have no desire to conceive, a hysterectomy can be an effective treatment option, particularly if you've not found sufficient relief from other treatments. This procedure can also be carried out laparoscopically and involves complete removal of your cervix, ovaries and uterus. Before undergoing this procedure, women in their reproductive years should have a discussion with their doctor to ensure they fully understand the permanency of this procedure and aren't likely to experience regret further down the line.
GPs have limited experience when it comes to treating endometriosis, and many simply offer painkillers, anti-inflammatories and birth control pills to sufferers. If you're struggling to cope with the symptoms of endometriosis, or if you're experiencing infertility that could be linked to this condition, schedule a consultation with a gynaecologist or OBGYN to discuss the best treatment option for your specific needs.