What is Endometriosis and what are the symptoms?

Endometriosis, commonly referred to as “endo”, is a chronic condition which affects one in ten women. It refers to when endometrial cells, the type that line the inside of the uterus (or womb) make their way to other sites in the body, usually within the pelvis, such as the ovaries or peritoneum (tissue which covers the pelvic organs).
Some women with endometriosis have no symptoms at all, some experience varying degrees of pain, others infertility. The pain that women experience is not always in association with periods and can be at other times of the cycle, and includes pain with urinating, upon using bowels and with sexual intercourse.

What causes it and can it be cured?

It is not fully understood what causes endo, and there is no “cure”. It is considered a chronic condition which, while does not affect life expectance, can certainly affect quality of life and cause significant disruption to young women. The treatments are targeted towards managing and minimising symptoms and endometriosis usually resolves with menopause.

How is it diagnosed?

Usually endometriosis is diagnosed at a laparoscopy (keyhole surgery), but this is not always necessarily performed before starting treatment. If you have pain and it is likely you have endo, there are several treatments we can try which don’t involve having surgery. If endometriosis has caused cysts on the ovaries, or larger deposits (called nodules), that can often be seen on an ultrasound.

How is it treated?

Treatments for endo are targeted towards the symptoms, and as many women have no regular symptoms of endometriosis it is reasonable to not have any treatment. Otherwise, the treatments range from over the counter medications, usually anti-inflammatory pain relief, to prescription medications, to surgery for removal of the endo. Physiotherapy, acupuncture and many other allied health professionals can also be helpful in managing endometriosis and pain in general.

Will I have difficulty falling pregnant?

Not necessarily. Most women with endo will have no difficulty conceiving (so if you are not planning a family, and you have endo, you should still use contraception). Some women will find that it takes them longer to get pregnant and more rarely, there may be significant difficulty falling pregnant. It is important to talk to your specialist or GP if you are planning a pregnancy, or are concerned about the impact your endo may have on conceiving.

Where can I get more information?

Here are some good, reliable sources of information about the topic