Every woman has a period and usually they can be a real pain – literally. Period cramping occurs for most women at every stage of their life. Other negative side effects can include bloating, cramping and general discomfort. However, there are many other women who suffer extremely painful periods. This condition is called endometriosis and it affects around 700,000 women in Australia.
Most women who suffer from endometriosis are often unaware that they even have it. This has caused the Federal Government to announce a draft plan for endometriosis. The plan will focus on the three main areas: awareness and education, care, and research and clinical management.
Our team have outlined the who, what, how and why of endometriosis.
What is it?
Endometriosis occurs when the inner lining of the uterus, know as the endometrium, is located outside the uterus. Usually found in the pelvis cavity, the lining has the ability to attach to the reproductive organs. This can also include the ovaries and fallopian tubes. The cause of endometriosis is still unknown and is often misdiagnosed or even unrecognised.
Symptoms of endometriosis
The most common symptoms include:
- Unusual heavy menstrual flow
- Nausea or vomiting
- Unusually long periods
- Extreme period cramps.
If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, it is highly recommended that you see a doctor.
Who is normally affected?
It is assumed endometriosis only affects women over the age of 20, h However that is only a myth, as it can occur even on the first period of a woman’s life. Women between the ages of 25 and 35 are most at risk.
How is it prevented?
There are a number of ways to decrease the chance of developing endometriosis. This most effective method is to lower the level of oestrogen in the body. This hormone thickens the lining of the uterus, especially during the menstrual cycle. There are many different ways to achieve this:
- Contraceptive pills with lower does of oestrogen. You’ll need to talk with your doctor to find out the safest way to do this.
- Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol, as too much of these are known to increase estrogen levels.
- Regularly exercise to lower body fat, which in turn will lower the level of oestrogen.
Is there a cure for endometriosis?
While there is no current cure for endometriosis, there are some ways to relieve the amount of pain.
All methods should be discussed with you doctor. These include:
- Pain relivers, such as paracetamol.
- Hormonal treatments, that includes the contraceptive pill.
- Hysterectomy or keyhole surgery. The outcomes of the surgeries can differ, from cutting out the endometriosis or even removing the whole uterus.