Silent Pain: Endometriosis (Part 1)

Silent Pain: Endometriosis (Part 1)

Pain relates to a neurological sensation causing emotional or physical discomfort. The endurance of pain not only limits the individuals capabilities but may alter their quality of life. Therefore, the pursue of relief is of outmost importance and need.

Pelvic pain is commonly associated with women and is one of the common reasons for a visit to the gynaecologist. The diligent gynaecologist conducts a through examination, orders several test as required, identifies the root cause and administers appropriate treatment. This task is carried out so that the pelvic pain is relieved and the women is back to her pain free lifestyle.

What if the medical examination and routine test by the gynaecologist yield normal results? In that case, what is the cause of the pelvic pain? Can the pain be relieved?

Image Source: News Medical

I am sure some women have gone through this similar predicament. They are quite familiar with the medical term “Endometriosis”. A condition related to pelvic pain that have silently been endured by these women.

What is Endometriosis ?

Endometriosis is a condition where the cells of the uterus (womb) lining (endometrium) is found outside of the womb. Endometriosis is often associated with cyclical period pain and sometimes  it leads to long term pelvic pain.

Deposits of endometriosis can be found anyway outside of the womb, namely on the innermost layer of the abdomen (peritoneum), ovaries, Fallopian tubes, bladder and large bowels.

In severe cases, it can also be found on the vaginal wall.

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Endometriotic deposits causes inflammatory reaction and causes ‘injury’ to the affected organ. The ‘injury-healing’ cycle can lead to formation of adhesions or ‘stickiness’ within the pelvis. These adhesions can lead to pain symptoms.

The actual prevalence of endometriosis is unknown but it is estimated that between 2% to 10%  of women in general population and up to 50% of women with infertility suffer from endometriosis.

Why is Endometriosis important?

According to a research done overseas, the medical cost for the treatment of endometriosis is comparable to other chronic diseases such as Diabetes Mellitus. In Malaysia, I believe the statistics is similar. This is partly due to the late diagnosis of endometriosis.

Studies in Europe has shown that there is a delay in diagnosis between 4 to 10 years. 

Image Source: Asia Times

Amongst the reasons for the delay are intermittent use of contraceptive pills that causes hormonal suppression of the symptoms, use of non-discriminatory examination, misdiagnosis and attitude towards menstruation and normalisation of pain by the women.

Endometriosis could not be reliably diagnosed based on medical history and examination alone. Special investigations in the form of a laparoscopy surgery is needed to confirm the diagnosis.

Early diagnosis of endometriosis is crucial as it can help the women to take steps to reduce the disease burden and  long term complications of endometriosis.

Affects of Endometriosis

Typically, there are two groups of women who presents with symptoms of endometriosis, those who have difficulty conceiving (fertility related) and those with pain symptoms (non-fertility related).

Image Source: Natural Doctor

a) Fertility Related:

Endometriosis causes inflammation of the pelvic organs. Chronic inflammatory process can lead to ‘scarring’ of the affected organs. This can lead to blockage of Fallopian tubes, one or both of it. A blocked or damaged Fallopian tube makes it difficult for the egg to be picked up after an ovulation for fertilisation by the sperm.

Endometriosis is also a common cause of an ovarian cyst formation. Removal of the ovarian cyst, either by a laparoscopy or a conventional surgery, has a risk of reducing the woman’s egg reserve (total number of eggs that she has). Multiple surgeries increase this risk. A woman’s fertility reduces with declining egg reserve.

Endometriosis can also affect the egg quality. Studies conducted among women undergoing an IVF treatment suggest that woman with an endometriosis tend to have a lower quality egg (oocytes). This directly has an impact on the resulting embryos and pregnancy rate.

 

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“Endometriosis of uterus” , more commonly known as adenomyosis may also be present in women suffering from endometriosis. Severe adenomyosis reduces pregnancy rate as it affects embryo implantation in the womb .

b) Non-fertility Related (Pain symptom)

Many women are diagnosed with endometriosis when they present with severe period pain. If fertility is of no concern, period pain can be suppressed with hormonal or non-hormonal medications. Many of these treatment options are not recommended if the women is trying to conceive.

The pain can be due to endometriosis deposits over the undersurface of the abdomen, formation of ovarian cyst or due to ‘scarring’ formation that causes adhesions of the pelvic organs.

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Endometriosis can also cause pain during sexual intercourse .

Coming up next on Healthtips by Teleme: Treatment Options for Endometriosis

 

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Dr. Agilan Arjunan

Dr. Agilan Arjunan

Obstetrician & Gynaecologist (infertility)

Irregular Period

Irregular Period

This is a simple basic guide for women with irregular period.

What are absent or irregular periods? 

Absent or irregular periods are periods that do not happen at all or that happen less than 6 to 8 times a year. If a woman does not get her period for a while, it might be because she is pregnant. Or in some cases, it might be that she has a medical condition that affects her reproductive system.

What causes absent or irregular periods? 

Pregnancy

PCOS (which stands for “polycystic ovary syndrome”). In women with this condition, the ovaries make too much male hormone. This can disrupt a woman’s periods and cause excess facial hair, acne, and problems with weight. PCOS is the most common cause of absent or irregular periods.

Image Source: Freepik

Exercising too much

Too much prolactin – Prolactin is a hormone made in the “pituitary gland”, which is a small organ at the base of the brain.

Early menopause – Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when she naturally stops having periods. Menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. But in some women, menopause comes early – before the age of 40. Early menopause happens when the ovaries run out of eggs earlier than normal.

Certain types of hormonal birth control – Some forms of birth control can cause absent or irregular periods. This is more common with those that contain only the hormone progestin. Examples include the progestin-only pill (sometimes called the “minipill”), the implant, and hormone-containing intrauterine devices (IUDs).

Should I see a doctor or nurse? 

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See your doctor or nurse if:

You are older than 15 and still have not had your period

You used to get periods, but you have not had a period for more than 3 months

Your periods happen more than 45 days apart

What other symptoms should I watch for? 

 Make sure to tell your doctor if you:

Think you might be pregnant

Have family members with irregular periods

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Have bad acne or hair on your chest or face

Have gained weight and are having trouble losing it

Have hot flashes, which feel like a wave of heat that starts in your chest and face and then moves through your body

Have night sweats, which are hot flashes that happen when you are asleep

Have new headaches or trouble seeing

Notice milky fluid coming out of your breasts

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Are under lots of stress

Have recently lost weight

Are exercising more than you used to

Have changed how much you eat or what kinds of foods you eat

Are taking any medicines, herbs, or vitamins

Are there tests I should have? 

Your doctor or nurse will decide which tests you should have based on your age, other symptoms, and individual situation.

Here are the most common tests doctors use to find the cause of absent or irregular periods:

Pregnancy test – Pregnancy is a common cause of missed periods. Your doctor will want to find out if you are pregnant before doing any other tests.

Image Source: Freepik

Blood tests – These measure hormones that affect the reproductive system.

Pelvic ultrasound – This test uses sound waves to make a picture of your uterus, cervix, and vagina. The picture can show if there is something wrong with these organs.

MRI – This test uses a large magnet to make detailed pictures of the brain. It can show if there is a problem in the part of the brain that controls the body’s hormones.

How are absent and irregular periods treated? 

That depends on what is causing your missed periods, and on whether you want to get pregnant. Possible treatments include:

Birth control pills to make periods regular

Image Source: Freepik

Losing weight if you are overweight

Medicines to help you get pregnant if you are having trouble getting pregnant on your own

Changing the way you eat and exercise, such as:

– Eating more calories

– Gaining weight if you weigh too little

– Easing up on exercise, if you exercise a lot

Image Source: Freepik

Reducing stress

Hormones to treat hot flashes (if you are going through early menopause)

Medicines to lower prolactin levels (if your pituitary gland is making too much prolactin)

Can absent and irregular periods be prevented?

You can reduce your chances of missing periods by eating well and staying at a healthy weight. Being too thin or too heavy can cause irregular periods.

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Dr. Agilan Arjunan

Dr. Agilan Arjunan

Obstetrician & Gynaecologist (infertility)

 
Common Contraception Myths

Common Contraception Myths

We have all heard about different ways to prevent pregnancy from friends, family and the social media. Every culture across the world has their own traditional methods of pregnancy prevention. We take a look at some of the common myths.

1. The contraceptive pills makes you fat

Multiple studies have shown that there is no difference in weight gain compared to women on the pill and those who are not taking it.

2. The contraceptive pill causes cancer

Women on the pill have a 50% reduction in the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer. There is a very small increase in the risk of breast cancer but this risk goes down to normal levels when the pill is stopped.

Image Source: Big Stock

3. You don’t need to be on any contraception if you are breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is only a reliable mode of contraception in the first 6 months after delivery if it is exclusive breastfeeding and no return of periods. Breastfeeding does reduce a woman’s fertility but unless these requirements are met, there is a significant risk of getting pregnant. If you do not fit in this criteria, then another method of contraception is advised.

4. Taking the contraceptive pill or any hormonal contraception will make it harder to get pregnant in the future

All hormonal contraceptives have temporary effects on fertility. Fertility will return with cessation of the contraception, the timing depending on the type of hormonal contraception used. There are no long term effects on fertility.

Image Source: Pregnant SG

5. Accidentally get pregnant while on hormonal contraception (including the pill) will cause birth defects to the baby

There is good evidence that shows hormonal contraceptives (including the pill) does not cause birth defects.

For more information on contraception, please click on the link below:

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Types of Contraception

Types of Contraception

Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception is for all those ‘oops!’ times when something unforeseen has happened, for example like when a condom has broken, when you have unprotected sex or a missed pill. It should NEVER be used as a regular method of contraception as pregnancy risks increase if used repeatedly.

There are 2 types of Emergency contraception:

A) Intrauterine Contraceptive Device has a success rate of 99% and can be used up to 5 days after intercourse. It can also be left in place and used as long term contraception.

B) Hormonal Emergency Contraception Pills can be used up to 3 or 5 days after intercourse, depending on the type of pill used.

Types of contraception

There are up to many types of contraception available, which means there is definitely one right for you! So discuss with your doctor to help you get the most suitable one.

Image Source: Shutterstock

The Pill

  • The Pill consist of synthetic hormones with an effective rate of around 91%.  It also helps to regulate periods, especially those with heavy or painful periods
  • Side effects: headache, nausea (feel like vomiting) and breast tenderness.
  • Not suitable for women with history or family history of blood clots in the veins

The Injection (Progesterone only Injectable Contraceptive Methods)

  • Effective rate is around 94%
  • Side effects: Return to fertility may be delayed between 6 months to 1 year

The Intrauterine Device

  • Small T shaped device placed into the uterus by a doctor at the clinic.
  • Effective rate is around 97-98% and safe to use for 3 or 5 years, depending on type and dose
  • Side effects: Periods may be heavier or more painful in the first few months

The Implant

  • Implant is one of the most effective contraceptive methods available.  It consists of synthetic hormone in a small plastic capsule that is placed under the skin of the upper arm. The procedure is done by a doctor at the clinic.
  • Effective rate is almost 100% for up to 3 years
  • Side effects: Periods may be irregular, less than usual or no periods.

Condom

  • Rubber (latex) cover that is placed over the penis during sex and must be removed immediately after ejaculation
  • Ideal for protection against any sexually transmitted diseases
  • Effective rate is around 75%

DUREX Together Easy-On

Durex Extra Safe

Durex Close Fit

For more information on contraception, please click on the link below:

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Why Do You Need Contraception or Family Planning

Why Do You Need Contraception or Family Planning

In 2008, 41% of pregnancies in the world were unintended while in Asia, the rate was 38%.  Some of the reasons for unintended pregnancies were:

  • Substantial unmet need for family planning services.
  • Poverty and lack of education
  • Not using or incorrect use of contraception
  • Socio economic, regulatory and religious conditions

Many still oppose to the use contraception because of perceived side effects of contraception and thinking infrequent sex did not require contraception.

Global research has shown that unintended pregnancy results in one of 3 outcomes:

  • Abortion (48%)
  • Miscarriages (38%)
  • Unplanned live birth (14%)

How many of us use contraception?

Image Source: Pexels

The Contraceptive Prevalence rate (number of women using contraception) in Malaysia is between 50 to 55 %.  In comparison, more people in our neighbouring countries of Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia at 72%, 78%, 62% and 61% respectively use contraception methods.

Provision of Contraceptive Provision and Services in Malaysia

Contraceptive services are provided by Ministry of Health, Family Planning and Development Board as well as The Federation of Reproductive Health Association Malaysia. In addition, contraception methods are available in private hospitals, pharmacies as well as private clinics.

Why do you need contraception?

Many women don’t realise how easy it is to get pregnant. There are 16.7 million unplanned pregnancies around the world every year which could have been prevented with the correct use of contraception.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s your first time, you only occasionally have sex or you only have sex on the so called ‘safe days’.

Image Source: Pexels

The message is, if you are having unprotected sex, you can get pregnant.

Coitus interruptus (withdrawing before ejaculation) is not as safe as you think. In fact, it is the least effective contraceptive method with 22 in 100 women who practice this method getting pregnant every year (that’s 22% failure rate!).

And remember, if your period is 2 weeks late, regardless of whatever contraception you are using, talk to your doctor. You may consider doing a pregnancy test. Pregnancy is ALWAYS a possibility.

Clearblue Pregnancy Test

Dip n Tell Midstream Pregnancy Test

Things to remember while on contraception

Certain methods of contraception may affect your periods and this will be explained by your doctor. Consult your doctor should you have any unexpected changes.

Certain medications (including some herbal supplements) may reduce the effectiveness of your contraception. Please inform your doctor if you are taking any medications or supplements.

Image Source: Cleo

Many women are worried about excessive weight gain, headaches or mood changes while on contraception. These side effects are not common and often occur because of many reasons other than your contraception. Consult your doctor to see if there are other underlying problems or if you require a change in your contraception method.

Consult your doctor before stopping or changing your contraception.  Wrongly timed contraception cessation or change may result in an unintended pregnancy

The health risks and side effects of an unintended pregnancy are far greater than any method of contraception. Always use contraception if you do not intend to get pregnant.

For more information on contraception, click on the link below:

 

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Purchase Pregnancy Test Kit Below

Pregnancy and Your Vision

Pregnancy and Your Vision

Pregnancy is a time of joy when the mother will be carrying and nourishing her child for the next 9 months. The duration of pregnancy is divided into 3 phases called trimester (1st, 2nd and 3rd trimester) each of which consists of 3 months.

Throughout pregnancy, there are changes in the hormone levels in the body which are essential to support the growth and development of the baby. These hormones also cause change in the mother’s metabolism, blood circulation, body size and a whole host of other symptoms such as tiredness, body swelling, mood changes and appetite changes which we are familiar with.

Pregnancy also affects the vision but only in a very minor way and may not even be apparent to most mothers.

Changes in refraction

The curvature of the cornea may change during pregnancy and as such may affect the vision as there may be either an increase (or rarely decrease) in the refractive error such as short or long sightedness. This is due to fluid retention at the lens and cornea causing a change in refraction.

Fortunately, this is temporary and the refractive error should return to the previous level within 1 month after the birth of the child.
As such, there is no need to change prescription of your glasses during pregnancy as the effect is only temporary.

 

Dry Eyes

rub-eyes

Image source: Shutterstock

The eyes can get more tired during pregnancy for 2 reasons. Firstly, the mother’s sleep may be disturbed as she finds it difficult to get into a comfortable sleeping position as her abdomen gets larger as the baby grows. Secondly, the cornea tends to get drier and contact lens wearing may be more uncomfortable and the eyes feel gritty.

This is easily solved by using eye lubricants on a regular basis (between 2-6 times per day) during pregnancy. If you wear contact lenses, you could apply preservative-free lubricants while wearing them or simply wear them for shorter periods.

The amount of dryness is related to the number of hours wearing the contact lenses. If this is too much trouble, just wear glasses during the pregnancy.

 

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes becomes more difficult to control during pregnancy. As such, the eye is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy and retina haemorrhages during pregnancy. It is very important that pregnant diabetic visit to the ophthalmologist (eye doctor) more frequently during pregnancy.

A general rule is a visit at the beginning of each trimester and monthly during the last trimester until 1 month after the birth of the child.

 

Hypertensive Retinopathy

In rare occasion, pregnancy can cause the blood pressure to rise very high in a condition called eclampsia. This is dangerous to the baby’s development and the mother’s health. In the event of uncontrollable high blood pressure, the mother is at risk of developing neurological (brain) strokes, kidney and heart failure as well as hypertensive retinopathy (haemorrhages in the retina) or strokes in the eye called vein occlusion which can cause blindness.

pregnant-lady-visit-to-doctor

Image source:  Below the Belly Button

Summary

  • Vision changes can occur during pregnancy but fortunately these changes are temporary and in most cases, the vision returns to normal within 1 month after birth.
  • If you wear glasses or contact lenses, do not change the prescription until after you have had the baby.
  • Dry eye symptoms are common and can be easily treated with lubricant eye drops. Use preservative-free eye drops if you are wearing contact lenses.
  • Mothers who are on treatment for diabetes or hypertension should have their eyes checked during pregnancy as they may develop sight-threatening complications.
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