Endometriosis is a common gynaecological condition, but can sometimes go undiagnosed or untreated for years. To help us understand more about it, we’re answering some common questions and clarifying misconceptions that many may have about the condition.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis happens when tissue similar to the lining on the inside of your womb or endometrial lining, grows outside of your womb. This causes the patient to experience pain due to the swelling and bleeding in places where it should not be (outside the womb)
Pain is the key symptom of endometriosis.
- Period pain that stops you doing your normal activities.
- Pain during or after sex.
- Pain when peeing or pooing during your period.
- Constipation, diarrhoea, or blood in your pee during your period.
- Others include excessive period bleeding and infertility
Some groups who could be at high risk of endometriosis include:
- Women who have never given birth before
- Family history of endometriosis
- Early menarche or late menopause
- Heavy periods or short menstrual cycles
Common misconceptions about endometriosis
1st (and most important) misconception: “It is normal to be in pain during periods. This is just part of growing up. ”
This is something that many girls hear when they speak to their parents about period pain. Many could even be rebuked for having a low pain threshold. But the truth is, there is a big difference between “normal” period cramps, which are typically mild, and the debilitating pain of endometriosis.
If your periods leave you incapacitated, unable to stand up straight, vomiting from pain, or even cause absence from work or school, you should have it checked. You don’t have to suffer in silence.
2nd misconception: “You cannot get pregnant if you have endometriosis”
Endometriosis is one of the biggest causes of female infertility. In fact, almost 40 percent of women who experience infertility have endometriosis. However, this does not mean that everyone with endometriosis is unable to get pregnant. Many women with endometriosis are able to conceive, even without any outside help. Others may still be able to get pregnant with medical intervention. Seek advice from your doctor early.
How is endometriosis diagnosed?
In the diagnosis of endometriosis, a detailed medical history and pelvic examination can provide initial clues to the diagnosis:
- History: Experiencing pain – period pain, sexual pain, pain when passing urine or motion; Infertility
- Pelvic check: enlarged womb or pelvic mass
- Bedside ultrasound: enlarged uterus, ovarian cysts etc.
However, a Laparoscopy is the only reliable method for diagnosing endometriosis. It is a minor surgical procedure that allows the doctor to view the inside of your abdomen and to collect tissue samples, to confirm the diagnosis.
The availability of single incision laparoscopy or “scar-less” surgery, lowers the threshold of the surgery and provides a quick recovery time with minimal post-operative pain.
Is endometriosis usually mistaken for something else?
This is possible, especially if the presumed diagnosis is based only on medical history. Differential diagnoses for endometriosis can include, pelvic adhesions due to infection, functional or neoplastic ovarian cysts, fibroids, intestinal or urinary problems, amongst others.
Can it be cured? How can it be managed?
There is currently no cure for endometriosis. However its symptoms (primarily pain) can be effectively managed with a hybrid approach, combining surgery and medical treatment with medication (Visannes), so that they do not interfere with daily life.
These treatment options aim to relieve related pain and improve fertility. For patients who have severe symptoms and do not have any further plans to have (more) children, surgery is a permanent option that can be considered to cure the condition.
Dr Ng Ying Woo is a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology with advanced laparoscopic skills. He believes in holistic care for his patients and has vast experience in performing surgeries and deliveries. Dr Ng is passionate about offering the best surgical solutions for management of gynaecological conditions.