What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is an extremely painful condition where the tissue that lines the uterus can mistakenly grow outside of the uterus, resulting in the development of endometrial tissue on the ovaries, fallopian tubes and other abdominal locations[1].

At least one in ten women in Australia suffer from endometriosis[2]. Their life is significantly challenging. Most are afraid of the effect endometriosis will have on their fertility, or bladder, bowels, overall health and even relationships. This constant state of worry can exacerbate their anxiety, depression and pain, impacting their quality of life.

The pain of Endometriosis has been described, as a biting, sharp prolonged pain, much like being on your period, but during your actual Period (or shark week, as it’s commonly known) feels 50 times worse.  The pain is debilitating and leads to many women needing to take time off work and missing important life events.

Women with endometriosis typically suffer from these symptoms:

  • painful periods
  • pain during intercourse
  • pelvic pain
  • heavy bleeding
  • ovulation pain
  • pain that radiates to their lower back or thighs
  • bowel symptoms – e.g. diarrhoea, pain when passing stools
  • bladder symptoms – e.g. pain when urinating
  • reduced fertility
  • nausea, lethargy, and difficulty sleeping
  • premenstrual symptoms.

Most women suffer from pain and other symptoms for years before being diagnosed with Endometriosis.

Treating Endometriosis

Endometriosis is often treated with medicines as a first-line treatment. Some women also benefit from alternative therapies. The main symptom – pain, is often treated with pain-relieving drugs (paracetamol, ibuprofen etc), and hormonal treatments that suppress ovulation and menstruation. Surgery can be used to remove or burn the endometrioses and sadly in some cases require complete removal of the uterus and/or ovaries[3].

However, more often than not, medications and hormonal treatments can be ineffective and come with side-effects, that may not ‘fix’ the issue. Although effective for the majority of women, surgery and the corresponding anesthetic comes with its own risks, and not all endometriosis cases can be effectively treated this way. Medical Cannabis may be an alternative treatment for some women.

Cannabis Research and Endometriosis

A study published in the Journal of Obstetrics Gynaecology Canada found that one in eight Australian women who suffer from endometriosis, use cannabis to manage pain and other symptoms. Other strategies that were reported to manage symptoms were breathing techniques, yoga, heat and dietary changes.  The women in the study reported that along with the reduction of pain, they felt the plant-based treatment reduced other symptoms, however, it is important to note that one in ten reported undesirable effects such as drowsiness, rapid heartbeat, or increased anxiety[4].

Citations

[1] https://www.health.qld.gov.au/news-events/news/signs-symptoms-endometriosis

[2] https://www.health.qld.gov.au/news-events/news/signs-symptoms-endometriosis

[3] https://www.healthline.com/health/endometriosis#treatment

[4] https://www.jogc.com/article/S1701-2163(19)30808-4/fulltext