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Endometriosis: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment Options

Endometriosis: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment Options

Endometriosis: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment Options

What is endometriosis, and could you have it? Here are some fast facts on the gynaecological condition.

If you have experienced menstrual pains or are having trouble getting pregnant, then you would have probably heard of endometriosis — a condition where cells from the lining of the womb grow on other organs, causing infertility.

The condition is not uncommon. Endometriosis is said to affect an estimated 1 in 10 women between the ages of 15 and 49. That is equivalent to about 176 million women in the world. If you are experiencing severe menstrual cramps or having trouble conceiving, here are some things that you may want to know about endometriosis.

Causes of Endometriosis

The causes of endometriosis are unknown, but researchers have some theories. One possible cause for the condition is that retrograde menstrual flow, where blood and endometrial cells flow back into your fallopian tubes and end up rooted on your ovaries, the surface of the womb and even the intestines.

“There are no proven studies on the causes of menstrual backflow. The backflow carries cells with it to other organs, and because they have to stay viable, they will likely implant and grow on other organs causing endometriosis,” explainsA/Prof Fong Yoke Fai, gynaecologist at Astra Laparoscopic & Robotic Centre for Women and Fertility.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, another possible theory is that a weak immune system could contribute to the development of endometriosis by not being able to properly detect and destroy endometrial tissue.

Symptoms of Endometriosis

If you have been experiencing extreme menstrual pain that stops you from going about your day, then endometriosis could just be one likely cause.

The most common symptoms of the medical condition is severe menstrual cramps, pelvic pain, pain during intercourse and heavy menstrual flow, where your pad or tampon needs to be changed every two hours. However, it is important to note that severe menstrual pain may also be caused by other conditions such as fibroids. Be sure to consult an obstetrician-gynaecologist (OB-GYN) at a hospital or women’s health clinic for a proper diagnosis.

“Some people may also get a distended abdomen because the cells grow into a cyst, which can get to be quite big. For others, endometriosis is presented through problems like infertility and painful sexual intercourse,” says A/Prof Fong.

Treatment for Endometriosis

Since endometriosis affects women across different ages, treating it will vary based on factors like your age and fertility plans.

“If a young patient has endometriosis, we may give her hormonal pills] that help to suppress the ovarian function and release of prostaglandin — a hormone that causes muscle contractions during menstruation. But this may not be a suitable treatment for those planning to have a family,” says A/Prof Fong.

Aside from hormonal therapies such as birth control pills, your OB-GYN may also suggest over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or other prescription drugs for relieving painful menstruation. Surgery to remove the endometriosis is also possible but will not guarantee the permanent removal of cells. If your condition worsens, or you develop adenomyosis (endometriosis of the womb muscle), then a hysterectomy may have to be performed — especially if you are at risk of developing ovarian or endometrial cancer.

“If left untreated, the deposits/ endometrial cells on the organs may undergo atypical change and this can lead to endometriosis-related or ovarian cancer. If you have an endometriotic cyst, your risk of developing ovarian cancer is about two to three times the baseline rate,” says A/Prof Fong.

Biography

A/Prof Fong Yoke Fai is the medical director of Astra Laparoscopic & Robotic Centre for Women and Fertility, located at Paragon Medical, #16-07/08. He is highly recognised in the management of menstrual-related problems, such as endometriosis and fibroids.

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