Endometriosis is a disease that can severely affect any woman. While endometriosis is not considered a fatal disease, it’s a painful condition that can affect a woman’s quality of life substantially - and with it her chances to get pregnant.
Endometriosis develops tissue that resembles the lining of the uterine cavita and begins to grow in other places, such as the ovaries, uterine wall and fallopian tubes. In stage 1, there are a few small implants or small wounds or lesions. Surrounding tissue can become irritated, eventually developing scar tissue and adhesions — abnormal bands of fibrous tissue that can cause pelvic tissues and organs to stick to each other. The most severe stage 4 is also the most widespread among affected women, with tissue growth outside the uterus.
The disease is a long-term condition that can affect women at any age. Severe cases of endometriosis often befall the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining the pelvis. But there are treatment options, including for cases where endometriosis causes pain and/or infertility.
How can a woman know if she has endometriosis?
Pain is the clearest sign of endometriosis. Many patients experience pain during sex or for up to two days afterward. Sometimes the pain is severe — especially during menstrual periods. Some feel a sharp or stabbing pain. Others describe it as a pain in their pelvic area.
There are several ways to diagnose the condition. During a pelvic exam, the doctor manually palpates areas in the pelvis for abnormalities, such as cysts on the reproductive organs or scars behind the uterus. In addition, ultrasound, MRI and laparoscopy may be used to identify the disease and its corresponding stage.
Can endometriosis point to underlying health conditions?
There is evidence of a link between endometriosis and other chronic conditions that affect a woman's health. For example, studies have shown an association between endometriosis and the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer. There is evidence that endometriosis may be associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and some other autoimmune diseases. In addition, cardiovascular risk such as hypertension and hypercholesterolemia may increase, possibly related to treatment modalities for endometriosis.
How do Bumrungrad specialists treat endometriosis?
Treatment depends on the stage and severity of the disease. The most common problem of endometriosis is abdominal pain, which includes menstrual pain, pain during urination and pain during defecation. Other common problems include uterine mass or ovarian cyst and infertility. In case of pain and uterine mass or ovarian cyst, surgery is the common treatment method.
Bumrungrad specialists consider laparoscopy the preferred surgical technique for endometriosis because its minimally invasive nature. Even in cases of infertility, some patients may become pregnant naturally immediately after surgical removal of the endometriosis mass, cyst or lesion.
Can a woman with endometriosis still have a baby?
Although endometriosis does not make pregnancy impossible, the condition can make conception more difficult than in women without the condition. Endometriosis can furthermore increase the risk for pregnancy complications. Pregnant women with the condition are considered high risk.
Endometriosis causes infertility in forty percent of women who cannot conceive. However, most of these patients can become pregnant using minimally invasive surgical techniques and advanced reproductive technologies which are all offered by Bumrungrad specialist doctor teams. For example, for severe cases who wish to have a child but whose endometriosis cannot be corrected by surgery, in vitro fertilization (IVF) shows high success rates in getting pregnant.
The method of fertilization depends on many factors and is always chosen in close consultation with the patient.
Can endometriosis be reversed naturally?
The cause of endometriosis is unknown. However, it is widely believed that the immune system can play a role in the development of the disease. A healthy immune system might help prevent the disease or improve the condition. Affected women should eat a healthy diet and avoid toxic substances such as alcohol and tobacco. Regular exercise, good sleep and going to bed early can also help strengthen the immune system.
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