Endometriosis

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue that usually lines the inside of the uterus (endometrium) is found in the abdomen (belly) or in other organs. It is mostly found in the pelvis or abdomen (belly). It is most common in women aged between 25 and 35. The most common symptoms are painful periods with heavy or irregular bleeding. Although there is no cure for endometriosis, treatments are usually very helpful in reducing symptoms.

Risks

Endometriosis is a condition where the lining of the womb (the endometrium) grows in places which are not the uterus (womb). This acts like normal tissue, and may bleed during the menstrual period, causing the symptoms of this condition. The causes of endometriosis are still not well understood, but it is probable that several factors combine to cause this to happen. It is most common in women aged between 25 and 35, and rarely affects postmenopausal women. People who have a family member with endometriosis are more likely to also have endometriosis.

Symptoms

Symptoms occur during the menstrual period, when the patches of abnormal tissue begin to bleed. The typical symptoms are very painful periods and heavy or irregular menstrual bleeding. People with endometriosis also have pain in the abdomen or lower back, pain when urinating or opening the bowels, pain during sexual intercourse, bloating, nausea and vomiting.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis is usually made by an experienced doctor or gynecologist based on the symptoms and gynecological examination. Often a scan of the reproductive organs (the ovaries and the womb) is done to look for other causes. The best test for confirming the diagnosis is a surgical procedure called laparoscopy (keyhole surgery), during which patches of the womb lining can be seen on the abdominal organs.

Treatment

There is no cure for endometriosis, so treatment involves controlling the symptoms. Simple pain medication, such as paracetamol, may help with period pain. Other treatments include hormone medications, which help to stabilize hormone levels and reduce the amount of menstrual bleeding, or medications that stop menstruation from occurring. These treatments reduce the symptoms and slow the growth of the abnormal tissue. If these are not helpful, surgical removal of the tissue may be helpful for some people.

Other names for endometriosis

  • Endometrioma