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What is Endometriosis? Everything you need to know

The silent and debilitating condition that affects 1 million women across Australia

Endometriosis is a silent and debilitating disorder that affects roughly 1 million women in Australia and 190 million women around the globe. Though this condition affects millions and millions of women and girls, there is still a perilous stigma surrounding the condition as well as a lack of awareness both within and outside of the medical community. 

On May 10th, 2024 the Federal government announced historic changes to Medicare to better support women battling this disorder. The recent announcement ensures Australian women suffering from endometriosis and complex gynaecological conditions will have access to longer specialist consultations covered by Medicare starting July 2025. This initiative, backed by a $49.1 million investment, aims to reduce diagnosis delays and provide timely care. The introduction of new Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items will facilitate extended consultation times and increased rebates for specialist gynaecological care, benefitting approximately 430,000 more women across the country.

The entire month of March is Endometriosis Awareness Month – an initiative that seeks to bring awareness, research, understanding and empathy to the condition.

Here’s everything you need to know about Endometriosis.

Why is there a month dedicated to Endometriosis? 

We have known about Endometriosis for hundreds of years, but medical advancements and understanding of the condition can only be traced back a hundred years or so.

As well as this, because the condition emulates a number of period symptoms, women struggle to get diagnosed, believed by doctors and function in their day-to-day lives.

Since 1993, March has been recognised as a month to raise awareness and education surrounding Endometriosis. It’s also a time to recognise that women still face significant challenges in the face of this condition.

What is Endometriosis?

Essentially, Endometriosis is when tissue that resembles the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. This not only can cause debilitating abdominal pain, but can also affect fertility. 

Even when treated with surgery, Endometriosis can continue to wreak havoc on the body with ‘adhesions’. Adhesions are thick bands of scar tissue inside your body that can develop either randomly or as the result of a surgery or infection. Essentially, adhesions can cause the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes or bowel to stick to each other – resulting in excruciating pain.

Symptoms of the condition usually include debilitating abdominal pain on or around your period, fatigue, pain during or after sex, pain in your lower back and legs as well as heavy bleeding or irregular bleeding.

How is Endometriosis diagnosed?

Endometriosis is historically extremely difficult to be diagnosed with. According to Endometriosis Australia, it takes 6.5 years on average to receive a diagnosis. This is most likely due to the condition’s symptoms which can vary and develop over time. However, more concerningly, Endometriosis is also tricky to diagnose because doctors have historically mistaken the pain from the condition as being menstrual pain.

There are several ways to diagnose Endometriosis but the two most common methods are ultrasounds and a laparoscopy.

Ultrasound: An ultrasound could potentially show a doctor whether there are large clumps of tissue forming around the uterus, which can get you diagnosed with Endometriosis. However, this can really only show whether there is growth in your ovaries. Due to the reduced vision an ultrasound provides, it’s harder to determine smaller growths which are the most common type.

Laparoscopy: A laparoscopy is a procedure where a doctor makes a small incision in the abdomen, then inserts a thin tube with a light and a camera. This will allow them to look around the uterus and spot endometrial tissue growth.


What are the four stages of Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is separated into four different stages which relies on a point system to quantify the severity of the condition. The stages also consider the amount of ‘implants’ that are discovered when diagnosing. Implants is the medical term for when the tissue layer lining the uterus grows outside of the uterus. 

  • Stage I (1-5 points): Generally considered minimal, a few superficial implants may be present.
  • Stage II (6-15 points): Mild and consists of many, deeper implants.
  • Stage III (16-40 points): Moderate, many deep implants, small cysts on one or both ovaries are also observed as well as adhesions.
  • Stage IV (>40 points): Stage four is considered severe, it means you may have many deep implants, large cysts on the ovaries and many dense adhesions.

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