One in 10 Australian women are living with Endometriosis, according to a national report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
The report, Endometriosis in Australia: prevalence and hospitalisations, also revealed many women are not aware they suffer with the chronic condition, or that their fertility is at risk.
Endometriosis occurs when tissue similar to that normally found lining the uterus occurs in other parts of the body. The tissue responds to hormones released by the ovaries, which can lead to bleeding, inflammation and scarring.
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Senior Monash IVF specialist, Dr Kee Ong said endometriosis is as common as Asthma, yet we know very little about it.
“Awareness and understanding are lacking across the spectrum from patients to doctors. It’s massively undiagnosed and one of the most common causes of infertility,” he said.
“Endometriosis is variable in presentation, meaning some patients will suffer with very severe symptoms while others will experience no symptoms at all.
“Women are waiting seven to 10 years for a correct diagnosis for a chronic condition which can effect both quality of life and fertility.
“It really is a silent epidemic which only comes to light for many women when they start trying for a baby. We need to get to it sooner.”
Endometriosis is diagnosed through key-hole surgery called a laparoscopy.
Of the 410 laparoscopies performed on his patients last year, Dr Ong said the condition was found in a significant percentage with many reporting no prior symptoms of pain.
The incidence of endometriosis in sub-fertile females is 20 to 40%, significantly higher than that of the general population.
“Early diagnosis is essential and there is hope! Surgery significantly improves the chances of conceiving and patients can often avoid the IVF path,” Dr Ong said.
“I see a lot of patients who have been through the extreme emotional and financial turmoil of repeated IVF cycles that had a lessor chance of success due to undiagnosed endometriosis. This is one of the most heart-breaking things to see.”
Some of the symptoms of endometriosis women can look out for include pain during sex or periods, heavy menstrual bleeding, bleeding between periods, lethargy and reduced fertility.
For more information on Endometriosis, and Dr Kee Ong, visit: goldcoastfertilityspecialist.com.au/