Endometriosis — what you need to know

illustration of woman and yellow ribbon for EndometriosisDuring March, you may see many women wearing yellow. March into Yellow is a movement aimed at raising awareness of and starting a conversation about a condition that affects between five to ten per cent of menstruating women around Australia — endometriosis.


What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis (pronounced en-doe-me-tree-O-sis) is disorder where tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus (the endometrium) grows outside of the uterus. This endometrial tissue grows within the pelvic region, often affecting the ovaries, bowel or the tissue lining the pelvis.

This tissue acts just like the tissue within the uterus — it thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. Because there is no way for this tissue to leave the body, it becomes trapped, often causing pain. Sometimes surrounding tissue can become irritated and may develop scar tissue and adhesions, which bind organs together.

Endometriosis can be extremely painful and may cause infertility. Unfortunately, the exact cause is unknown.


What are the symptoms

The symptoms of endometriosis can vary, depending upon where endometrial tissue is located. Typical symptoms may include:

  • Painful periods
  • Pelvic and abdominal pain, not related to menstruation
  • Heavy periods, clotting, long periods, irregular periods or premenstrual spotting
  • Ovulation pain
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain during urination
  • Pain in the lower back, thigh or leg
  • Bowel problems including painful bowel motions, diarrhoea, constipation or bleeding from the bowel
  • Trouble getting pregnant.

If you experience any of the above symptoms, speak to your doctor. You may not have endometriosis, but it is worth investigating, particularly if the quality of your life is suffering.


How is endometriosis diagnosed?

Unfortunately, an accurate diagnosis of endometriosis can take some time, with the average length of time between onset of symptoms and diagnosis being seven years. This is because some women may feel that their symptoms are a normal part of their menstrual cycle. Sometimes doctors may initially attribute symptoms to other conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease, fibroids, kidney stones, irritable bowel syndrome, cystitis or stomach ulcers.

Diagnosis is made via a laparoscopy — a surgical procedure involving inserting a long, thin telescope (laparoscope) into the abdomen through a cut near the navel. Gas is pumped into the abdomen to separate the organs, enabling the surgeon to look for signs of endometriosis.

Endometriosis is classified in stages from stage one (mild) to stage four (severe), according to its location and depth.


How is it treated?

There are many options for treatment, all of which are based on the severity of symptoms, location of the displaced endometrial tissue, the woman’s age and the outcome the woman wishes for (e.g. improved fertility, pain relief)

There are three main ways to treat endometriosis:

  1. Medications, including hormonal and non-hormonal treatments
  2. Surgical treatment to remove endometrial lesions and adhesions
  3. Complementary treatments including physiotherapy, acupuncture, herbal remedies, nutrition, homeopathy and clinical psychology to assist with pain relief.


What can you do?

There are several things you can do to help raise the awareness of endometriosis.

You can wear yellow durimarch into yellowng March to start a conversation, or head on over to March Into Yellow  to change your profile picture to yellow for the month.

You can share information about endometriosis via your social media platforms.

You can take up the March into Yellow Challenge and ask friends and families to sponsor you, to help raise funds for awareness, education and research.


For further information about endometriosis, visit Endometriosis Australia

To get involved visit March into Yellow.