On this page you will learn about endometriosis and IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the bowel and intestinal involvement, signs, investigations and ways to manage your symptoms.
There are sometimes difficulties in differentiating the two problems. As a consequence, it is not unusual for a woman to see both a bowel specialist and a gynaecologist because of this.
To understand this better, I will define the condition as well as the signs and how they compare to Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
There are various ways to tell the two apart.
Endometriosis or endo is a condition defined by ectopic uterine tissue.
This tissue is similar to the tissue found in the womb, but deposits itself outside of the uterus.
The reason for this is unclear, but they deposits can occur anywhere including in the fallopian tube, ovary, bladder and bowel.
It can also spread to other parts of your body such as the lung, although this is rare.
Irritable bowel on the other hand has a collection of symptoms that define the syndrome.
These are collectively brought together by the Rome III criteria as abdominal pain associated with a change in bowel habit with either constipation or diarrhea.
Endometriosis can cause lots of symptoms. These include abdominal pain, back pain, tiredness, painful periods, dyspareunia or painful sex, fertility issues and pain on urinating if your bladder is involved.
Rarely it can spread to the lung and can cause hemoptysis or coughing up blood (I have only seen this once since I qualified as a physician).
When intestinal endo is present, you can have symptoms of bleeding from the bowel, diarrhea and sometimes constipation.
To differentiate bowel endometriosis with Irritable Bowel Syndrome is quite difficult because of their similarity and can be present for many months before a sufferer seeks help.
One possible way is from the history - endo is affected by the sex hormones so symptoms are classically worse around the time of your period although not always the case whereas intestinal symptoms occur at any time.
Also, you can have bowel endo without having any other symptoms.
As symptoms of endometriosis and IBS are so similar, investigations are inevitably the only way of differentiating between the two.
There is no real test for the condition apart from either performing a laparoscopy or laparotomy.
A laparoscopy is a surgical exploration of your abdomen using a “keyhole technique”.
Your abdomen is inflated with carbon dioxide via a tube placed through the abdominal wall.
Another hole will allow passage of a camera in to the abdomen so that the surgeon can identify any abnormality.
A laparotomy on the other hand is an open surgical procedure to look in your abdomen through a surgical incision.
This is less commonly done these days with the advance in surgical laparoscopy which reduces healing time and produces fewer symptoms than laparotomy.
Irritable Bowel is normally treated with diet manipulation as well as other therapies which you can learn about in the treatment section.
Endometriosis is treated with analgesia (pain relief), hormone manipulation therapy and sometimes surgery to remove deposits.