If you are a woman in the child-bearing age and are suffering from painful or heavy periods, pain while emptying bladder/bowel, severe fatigue and insomnia, you should consider informing your gynaecologist at the earliest. The symptoms could be pointing to endometriosis, a chronic and debilitating condition that significantly impacts on a woman’s quality of life.

Endometriosis is a condition where cells similar to the one in the lining of the womb (uterus) are found outside the womb on other internal organs of the body. Every month these cells react the same way as those in the womb — growing, then breaking down and being expelled by the body. But unlike what happens in the uterus where the cells are expelled during the monthly menstrual cycle, this blood has no way to exit the body. So, over a period of time it causes damage to the fallopian tubes, ovaries, pelvic nerves and bladder or bowel.

Endometriosis can affect 1 in 10 women of childbearing age. That’s an estimated 176 million women worldwide. Left unchecked, it may also lead to infertility in around 30–50 per cent of women.

A study published online in June in the journal Human Reproduction found that twice as many women with endometriosis experienced fatigue, insomnia and depression compared with women who did not have the condition.

With expert and early treatment, as offered at Medcare Women & Children Hospital, many of these issues can be addressed, and the symptoms of endometriosis better managed.

Diagnosing endometriosis may often take years because many symptoms are similar to other common conditions such as irritable bowel disease. It’s important to inform your gynecologist as early as possible.

Scans, blood tests and clinical examinations are not a conclusive way to diagnose endometriosis. The only definitive way to diagnose the condition is by laparoscopy (key hole surgery) where it can be treated at the same time.

While there is no cure for endometriosis, different treatment options are available to reduce the severity of symptoms and improve the quality of patients’ lives. The mode of treatment depends on factors including severity of symptoms and age.

At Medcare Women & Children hospital, doctors will work with you to decide on a suitable treatment. Options could be surgical — removing the endometriosis tissue — or medical treatment in the form of hormone treatment and pain relief.

Dr Charles Nagy, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist at Medcare Women & Children hospital.