What is Endometriosis?  

When a couple has trouble conceiving, the cause of infertility may be a combination of medical conditions. One of the common problems we see at our Melbourne fertility clinic is endometriosis. While many people have heard the term, some do not know enough about endometriosis, or what steps can be taken to treat this disease.

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis (en-doe-me-tree-O-sis) is a painful physical condition in which tissue similar to endometrium grows on the ovaries, the tissue lining your pelvis, and Fallopian tubes. Endometrium normally grows inside your uterus. The two-layer tissue provides a lining for the uterus and a place for a fertilized egg to attach and nest after conception.

When endometrium-like tissue grows outside the uterus, it can block Fallopian tubes, and cause extreme pain, as the tissue changes in response to monthly hormonal changes. One of the reasons women experience pain is that as the tissue outside the uterus breaks down during menstruation there is not a path for the blood and decaying tissue to exit the body. Pain associated with menstruation is not the only symptom of endometriosis.

What Are The Most Common Signs of Endometriosis?

Women may experience painful intercourse and discomfort or pain during urination and bowel movements. And, the displaced tissue may cause scarring within the abdominal and pelvic cavities.

Some of the first signs that indicate endometriosis may be the cause of infertility include heavy periods, unusual bloating, lethargy, unexplained weight loss, break-through bleeding, and nausea. When left untreated, the excess tissue can eventually lead to endometriomas — ovarian cysts.

What Are The Risks of Developing Endometriosis?

Endometriosis can occur at any stage of a woman’s life — during childbearing years, perimenopause, or post-menopause life-stage. Risk factors include obesity, having excess fat cells that lead to estrogen overproduction, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), irregular periods, and infertility. Endometriosis may be the root cause of infertility or one of the underlying conditions caused by infertility.

Endometrial Hyperplasia & Endometrial Cancer

Endometriosis can be treated with medication, and in some cases, surgical procedures to remove adhesions and displaced endometrial tissue outside the uterus.

Sometimes, women develop an abnormally heavy endometrial lining. This may be caused by an estrogen-progesterone imbalance or when ovulation does not occur and the endometrium is not shed. Cells continue to grow and reproduce, causing layer upon layer of endometrial tissue to gather on the uterine wall. This condition is known as endometrial hyperplasia.

Although endometrial hyperplasia is normally seen in perimenopausal or postmenopausal women, it is important to talk to your fertility specialist if you notice changes in your monthly cycle (shorter periods, irregular periods, or excessive bleeding) as failure to treat this condition could lead to endometrial cancer.

Diagnosing & Treatment Options

Diagnosing endometriosis usually starts with a pelvic exam. Your Melbourne Fertility Clinic doctor will palpate (manually feel) the pelvic region searching for cysts or scars on reproductive organs or behind your uterus. After the pelvic exam, your Viera fertility clinic specialist may order additional tests.

  • An MRI provides images that pinpoint displaced tissues and may help with surgical planning, or rule out endometriosis.
  • Ultrasound tests use sound waves to create pictures of your internal organs. A fertility specialist may use a traditional ultrasound technique that involves pressing a transducer on the abdomen, or may use a transvaginal ultrasound device that is inserted into the vagina. Neither method identifies areas of endometrial tissue growth, but both will identify cysts.
  • A laparoscope procedure is performed by a Viera Fertility surgeon under anesthesia. The procedure requires a small incision to allow the insertion of an instrument to view the internal areas. This means your doctor can look inside the uterus and at all surrounding areas to see if endometrial tissue is present.

Treatment may include prescription pain medications, hormone therapy, surgical removal of cysts, displaced endometrial tissues, and in extreme cases, a hysterectomy with ovary removal.

If you are having trouble conceiving, your fertility specialist may recommend tests to check for endometriosis. Fertility treatment may range from medication to correct hormonal imbalances to surgery or in vitro fertilization. Contact us today to learn about your options and decide which treatment is best for you!