Period pain is not normal and even if you suffer no pain at all, you could still be living with a potentially devastating disease.
In Australia, one in 10 women are living with endometriosis, with many unaware they are suffering with the chronic condition.
Senior Monash IVF Specialist, Dr Kee Ong said up to 45% of endometriosis will present with no symptoms at all.
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“It’s a silent epidemic which only comes to light for many when they start trying for a baby. We need to get to it sooner,” Dr Ong said. “Too many women are slipping through the cracks.”
Dr Ong told myGC a pelvic ultrasound does not rule out endometriosis. Instead, an operation called a laparoscopy is the gold standard for diagnosis.
Performing over 500 laparoscopies last year, Dr Ong found the condition in a significant percentage of patients with many reporting no prior symptoms.
“This is a chronic condition, as common as asthma, it’s a major cause of infertility yet we see a shocking delay to diagnosis of 7 to 10 years,” Dr Ong said.
Every year, thousands of couples will go through the extreme emotional, physical, and financial turmoil of repeated IVF cycles with a lessor chance of success due to undiagnosed endometriosis.
“Endometriosis awareness and understanding are lacking across the spectrum from patients to doctors,” Dr Ong said.
“This is one of the most heart-breaking things to see. Early diagnosis is essential and there is hope! Surgery significantly improves the chances of conceiving, and we can often avoid IVF.”
Dr Ong will be sharing personal stories and experiences from real life ‘endo warriors’ on his social media @drkeeong this month.
He wants women to know they are not alone.
“Listen to your gut. If you feel like something isn’t quite right, chances are it’s not. Make sure you are being heard by your GP and don’t be afraid of the diagnosis process to get the answers you need,” Dr Ong said.
“Fertility is not a numbers game. Getting to the bottom of the underlying cause must come first.”
Endometriosis occurs when tissue similar to that normally found lining the uterus occurs in other parts of the body. Tissue responds to hormones released by the ovaries, which can lead to bleeding, inflammation and scarring. Some of the more obvious symptoms to look out for include pain during sex or periods, heavy menstrual bleeding, bleeding between periods, lethargy, and reduced fertility.