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Women’s chronic pelvic pain often misdiagnosed, new report reveals

13 Aug 2020
Women’s chronic pelvic pain often misdiagnosed, new report reveals News image

Women suffering from chronic pelvic pain are often misdiagnosed, according to The Gut Foundation, Australia’s leading authority on gut health.

President and Founder of The Gut Foundation Professor Terry Bolin says better solutions are needed to recognise, differentiate and treat conditions such as chronic pelvic pain, endometriosis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

With up to 25 per cent of Australian women living with chronic pelvic pain, The Gut Foundation assembled an expert panel to identify the common symptoms and recommend action to manage these conditions.

The experts have produced a report entitled Understanding Endometriosis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Chronic Pelvic Pain which provides succinct information about the symptoms, diagnosis and recommended treatments.

This is the first time a report has examined the common confusion and symptom crossover between these debilitating illnesses affecting so many Australian women.

Raising awareness

Elle Watmough, wife of former rugby league great Anthony Watmough, is one of the women who has battled endometriosis for several years.

Ms Watmough,has done an outstanding job in raising awareness about this painful condition.

Professor Bolin says the conditions are notoriously “tricky to diagnose” as there are so many overlapping symptoms.ElleWatmoughPic3 300dpi

“As it may take time to reach the correct diagnosis, it is entirely reasonable to treat the symptoms in the interim,” he says.

“As pain is a problem, an anti-spasmodic is probably more helpful than non-steroidal drugs or simple analgesics.

“We also often advise women to increase their fibre intake to overcome constipation and to avoid foods that can cause bloating. A simple herbal preparation like Iberogast can also be helpful.

“In a telephone survey of 1295 female patients aged 18 to 49, half of the respondents were affected by bloating. In 17 per cent, it was disabling from a work or social viewpoint and it was commonly associated with constipation.”

Bloating the most common symptom

In an Australian study3 of women with suspected endometriosis, 90 per cent had gastrointestinal symptoms and about 20 per cent had previously been diagnosed with IBS.

Bloating was the most common gastrointestinal symptom, followed by nausea, constipation, diarrhoea, vomiting and rectal bleeding.

A summary of 13 different studiesconcluded that women with endometriosis are two or three times more likely to also have IBS compared to women without endometriosis.

Professor Bolin says the Gut Foundation was inspired to create the report after realising there was virtually nothing available that summarised the commonalities between endometriosis, IBS and CPP.

“We wanted to produce a document that would be useful not only to those affected, but also to the medical practitioners and organisations trying to alleviate these women’s suffering,” he says.

The expert panel included Professor Bolin, Dietician Chloe McLeod and Professor George Condous. 

The Understanding Endometriosis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Chronic Pelvic Pain report is available as a free download from The Gut Foundation’s website or in printed format. For enquiries please email info@gutfoundation.com.au

Elle Watmough with daughter

Pic Credit: Bree from Iris and Me

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