The exact cause of endometriosis is still unknown. The most popular theory is that during menstruation, the menstrual tissue passes backwards through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvis where it attaches and grows.
Endometriosis does seem to run in families, so you will be more likely to have it if your mother or another woman in your family has had it.
What are the symptoms?
Many women have endometriosis with no symptoms or problems but this is not always the case.
Common symptoms of endometriosis include:
- period pain
- pain with sex
- pelvic pain at other times of the menstrual cycle
- back pain
- low energy
- pain passing a bowel motion.
All of these symptoms have other possible causes.
Some women who have difficulty becoming pregnant are found to have endometriosis, even when they don't have other symptoms.
How is endometriosis diagnosed?
A discussion about your symptoms and a physical examination should provide your doctor with enough information to determine if you might have endometriosis.
If your doctor thinks you may have endometriosis they will most likely recommend you have an ultrasound. This will usually be able to show if you have lumps (nodules) of suspected endometrium growing near or into your bowel and bladder. A definitive diagnosis can only be made if you have a laparoscopy (keyhole surgery). A tiny incision is made in your abdomen and a small sample of tissue taken. Tests done on the tissue will confirm if it is endometrium or not. Based on the severity of your symptoms, your doctor will plan the best treatment for you.
There are currently no non-invasive tests for endometriosis available in Australia.
Endometriosis and fertility
There are many reasons why a couple may be infertile. Endometriosis is sometimes found in women who are having trouble getting pregnant. In a minority of these women, scar tissue caused by the endometriosis will have caused a blockage of the fallopian tubes.
However, in most women it is not clear why the endometriosis affects their fertility. Theories include that the endometriosis:
- results in eggs that are less likely to fertilise
- produces natural toxins to sperm.
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