Getting a handle on pain with proper pain management

One of the things that I see not managed very well is pain. I think much of this comes around a perception that we should be able to manage pain with over the counter medications and some of it is also not really knowing what to do, if what we are doing for ourselves, or are currently doing, isn’t working. Some of it is also that healthcare practitioners aren’t managing it well either.

Now, before I start talking about pain, and so that people understand where I am coming from, I need for people to know one thing.  Everyone’s pain levels are different and everyone’s cause of pain is different too. I also know what it is like to live with pain daily and manage a chronic condition that causes pain and affects one’s life. So I understand pain and understand it well and I sympathise with anyone who is in pain. So I just ask for people to take the personal out of this, just listen and hear what I am going to say. Again I have lived with chronic and acute pain daily and I know what it is like and I have loved ones who have to manage it daily as well. So what I am about to talk about is coming from a place of caring, wanting to help and also knowing how to manage pain on a clinical level as a healthcare professional.

Every day I see people posting in closed groups asking for help with pain and things they can do to manage pain. It breaks my heart hearing what some people put up with, or if I see they aren’t being told the right thing, or managed properly. Often I see people putting up with pain because they fear going to the hospital, seeing their specialist, seeing someone else,  or that they should be able to handle it themselves.

No matter what, constant and acute pain is not good for the body and it also means that there is something wrong and it needs to be attended to.

The thing is, pain needs to be managed, just like any other health issue, and if it isn’t managed, or managed well, then it can really affect ones physical and emotional wellbeing. I know people will say that long term medication isn’t good, and it isn’t, but long term unmanaged pain can be far more detrimental than any long term medication. It truly is a catch 22 situation.

When pain gets to a point where over the counter medications aren’t working, or even some prescription medications aren’t working, then something needs to be done about it. This either means surgical intervention, or it means that you need stronger medications and you need this in the form of proper medical management of that pain. It may also mean other therapies and treatments outside of what you are currently using and being managed with.

Many times when I hear that people are in pain, one of the things that stops them doing anything is that they perceive that nobody is going to help them because what they themselves have tried, hasn’t worked. I wish I could get it through to people in pain, that the best thing they can do is go and get the pain managed properly. This often means a trip to the nearest hospitals emergency department and I think this is where people then talk themselves out of it. It is always better to go and be managed properly, than sit at home still in pain.

When people come to see me and then I have to refer them for surgery, one of the things I always talk about and have an action plan for is pain management. I always tell my patients to properly manage pain after surgery and even do precautionary pain management post-surgery. I always give my patients a handout and action plan for pain management, whether they need it or not.  After surgery there is often a bit of illusion state around pain, because there have been anaesthetics used and other heavy duty sedatives. So often people wake up in recovery and think the pain isn’t as bad as it is, because it is being masked from the anaesthetics. Then they go home and don’t bother to keep up their pain meds and then the pain kicks in and then it is really hard to get back on top of it again once it starts. Once the pain cascade starts, then it is really hard to then try and get back on top of that pain yourself. This is why it is always good to take precautionary pain medications for a few days (or longer) post-surgery and then taper them down and start using some other alternatives to manage the pain. I’ll discuss some great alternatives for pain management later on, but for now, let’s just talk about the medical and pharmaceutical options.

The basic same principles also apply to people who have flare ups with pain, or have chronic, or acute pain. It needs to be managed and it needs to be managed as soon as possible. The longer you are suffering in pain, the harder it is to treat and get under control. Sure, try all the conservative treatments for pain such as over the counter medications, herbal medicines, acupuncture, yoga, meditation etc, but if those aren’t working well enough, or aren’t working at all, it is time for medical intervention. The same goes in reverse too.

Sometimes the body has been in pain that long, that you also need to turn that response off, because it has actually become a habit, rather than the body actually still being in pain. This one is a bit tricky to explain to people, but in essence what we need to do is actually tell the body it isn’t in pain any longer, so that it switches off that response in the brain.

Getting back to acute pain, and when pain is getting out of control, this is where I need people to listen. Many times I see people posting in groups, telling their support group and that they are in pain and saying things like that they feel it would be pointless to go to the hospital, as they usually do nothing to fix their issue. The thing is sure, emergency departments aren’t there to fix chronic conditions, but, they are there to help you get out of pain, or patch you up, and then refer you on for appropriate management if need be.

Now, before I talk about this next bit, if you are in acute pain and do not know what it is from, you need to go and get that pain looked and get it under control. You can either consult with your healthcare provider (GP etc), or go to your nearest Emergency centre.

Speaking about emergency centres and hospitals, I need to let people know that there is no shame in going to these places to get your pain managed properly. I also need people to know that emergency centres (A&E) are not there to fix your long term issue. They are there to assess imminent danger, control pain etc and then patch you up and refer you on to other specialists in the field of what your particular issues is. That is it. All too often people do have a perception that if they turn up to emergency department, their long term health issue is going to be fixed. That is not their job. Again they are there to assess danger, control pain, stop your dying (if that is needed), then refer you on for appropriate management. Sometimes that means staying in hospital until you are stabilised. All too often I hear people saying that they went to emergency and they did nothing. Well, I doubt they did nothing. They would have assessed you, medicated you and if your condition isn’t life threatening, you would most probably be sent home. That is what they do.

This gets me back to those in pain and are trying to talk themselves out of going to hospital, because apparently, through past experience, or someone has wrongly told them, that they won’t be able to help you. This is wrong. If you are in pain you are best  going to emergency, where trained people, not our untrained internet buddies, can assess you properly and then help you with pain and stabilise you.  If all emergency do is control your acute pain and make sure you aren’t dying and are stable, then they have done their job. Controlling someone’s pain can actually stabilise the body in more ways than one. Once that pain is stabilised, then what you need to do is ask them for medications to be continued to actually help with the pain cycle. You can also continue on with previously prescribed medications to control that pain, now that stronger medications have been administered and your pain levels have lowered. This then buys you time to see your regular healthcare provider as soon as possible and talk about a better pain management plan. If that said provider isn’t managing you properly, then you need to get a second, or third, or tenth opinion. Look, every profession has people who are not good at their job and some healthcare professional are crap at things like pain management. So find someone who can help you with ongoing pain management. If you can’t find someone, then message me for details of someone who can.

There are now also some pain modulators (neuro-modulators) and implants that are being used to control pain too. People are also getting great results with botox and other injectables.

Last but not least, sometimes you need to look outside the medical model, for help with pain. Actually I believe it is essential. Sure, get your acute pain managed with medical intervention, but you may also need to look at complementary medicines for ongoing pain management, especially chronic long term pain. No medicine has all the answers, so this is why I am very passionate about people using a multimodality approach to their health issues and especially for pain management. I always say to people that if what you were doing currently is helping, then you wouldn’t be in pain and if you are still in pain, it means you need to change something, or look at other ways to manage it. Unfortunately while modern medicine saves lives and can help us in so many ways, it doesn’t have all the answers either.

Non-Medical Ways to Manage Pain

One of the best non-medical ways to control and manage long term pain is Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). This medicine has been around much longer than modern medicine and it is very effective. There is now research to show that Acupuncture and TCM is not only an effective treatment for pain and pain management, but it is also equivalent to the effects of some of our strong pain medications, when it is administered properly by a trained healthcare provider and with a series of treatments. It is also being used in mainstream hospitals for pain management too. While acupuncture is very effective for pain, there is no such thing as a one off treatment for any medicine and we all need to remember that.

There is also an amazing therapy called Biomesotherapy, also known as biopuncture. It combines the use of acupuncture and also uses injectable saline and anti-inflammatories into the acupuncture points. Local anaesthetics and pharmaceutical injectable pain killers can also be injected into the acupuncture points and this is how it has been used in part of Europe for over 50 years by main stream medicine. It is such an amazing therapy for acute pain.

There are also Chinese herbal formulas that can assist with pain and pain management and they also help with the root cause of your pain as well. Again these aren’t a one off treatment and require a course of treatment to get the true benefits. You don’t just take one antibiotic, or one pain medicine and it fixes your issue and the same goes for herbal medicines. What we also need to remember is that up to 50% of our pharmaceuticals are actually derived from herbal compounds.

There are also some other great complementary therapies that can help pain. Chiropractic and Osteopathy can help with skeletal pain and also help with realigning sublaxations that are impinging on nerves and causing pain. Both modalities can help balance the body as a whole.

Yoga and Pilates can help with pain by rebalancing the body, working on the core and also by assisting the body to relax. There is a bit more to it than that, but they can help

Massage can also help with pain and pain management.  There are also other herbal medicines that can help too. Your healthcare provider, or herbalist, can assist you by consulting with you and helping manage your condition. Just like medical interventions and pharmaceuticals, you should never self-prescribe and always consult with someone who is qualified in their particular profession. They can also administer you practitioner only medicines that are far stronger and more clinically efficient that over the counter products. It is the same in modern medicine too.

Physiotherapy can help with pain management and rehabilitation and women with pelvic pain may need a physiotherapist that can help with pelvic floor physiotherapy and that can do work internally. This is a specialist area though.

Pulse magnetic therapy and TENS (Transcutaneous Electro Neuro Stimulator)can definitely help with pain and ongoing pain management. While many people have heard of TENS, not many have heard of Pulse Magnetic Therapy and this is something that I have been using for a long time and had great results with for chronic pain (all forms of pain) and also pelvic floor instability and incontinence. It really works.

Let’s not forget the power of a healthy diet, when it comes to pain. Diets high in processed foods and sugars and refined grains, alcohol etc promote inflammation. Then inflammation causes pain and can make conditions causing pain worse. I always assess people diets, when they have pain, or health issues.

Lastly, talk therapy and counselling and mindfulness training is probably some of the most underrated therapies for the ongoing management of pain. I can’t say this enough. Our brain is what controls all our senses and unless we learn to control stress and quieting our mind, then managing pain is so much harder. I also know it can be a catch 22 situation too, but it is needed. While support groups and talking with friends is great, it cannot compare to the help from a trained professional, who has the appropriate years of training and is specialised in their particular field, or profession.

Oh, and please don’t get your medical advice from people on support groups either. I see this so often and it really scares me what I see and hear.  I know they are well meaning and their support is great for you, but they are a trained professional it could be very dangerous and let’s not forget that everyone has different needs according to their condition. What medication, or therapy,one person is on,or taking, may make another ill, or actually make someone else worse. Please do not Dr Google either. A degree in Dr Google, doesn’t make one a healthcare expert and much of the medical advice on Dr Google is not right. Sure, be educated and be informed, but be careful too. Always consult with a healthcare professional for any health advice, or before trying to do something to manage your health.

Pain is something that we have all experienced, but it is not something that should be endured either. Of course there are individual cases that are just off the charts and require a whole different level of management. These people I feel sorry for the most. While some of these cases may never have their pain gone completely, with the right treatment most of them can be managed to some form of normalcy.

For the rest of the population, most pain can be treated if intervention is administered early enough and there is good ongoing management moving forward. The problem for many is that they aren’t being managed properly and many are trying to just do it themselves. That isn’t going to work.Some people just leave it too long too. The longer you leave pain not managed, the harder it is to treat.  You may also need that multimodality (team approach) for some conditions such as endometriosis and gynaecological conditions. Some other causes of pain will need this too. For others, they just need to see the right people and once they do, their pain can be treated, or managed really well. In many cases, it can be fixed completely.

Always remember that there is no such thing as a one off treatment for pain, or any health issues, and that there is no miracle one off pill to fix pain either. Even though pain need to be managed with medications sometimes, it isn’t always the answer either. People need look at treating the cause of their pain and also looking at other therapies outside of modern medicine too. This is where individualised treatments and treatment/management plans are the best, because everyone is different in what they are experiencing and what their particular issue is.

I have seen the amazing effects of a combination of therapies, or stand-alone therapies, in the treatment of pain and its ongoing management. If you aren’t getting the answers you need, with who you are seeing, or what you are currently doing, then you need to look outside the box, think outside the box and start finding treatments and healthcare people that can help you and your particular health issue. Never underestimate the body’s power to heal itself and never underestimate the power of a second, or tenth opinion.

If you aren’t getting the help you need, then book in a consult with me and I will do my best to get you the help and care you deserve and should be getting. I also have a great network of trusted professionals I work with if it is outside something that I do, or if you need that team approach for your condition. I have my trusted team and that is what you may need too.

One more things, for anyone, pain is the sign that something is wrong in the body and means it needs to be addressed. Oh and always remember, period pain is not normal either.

Take care

Regards

Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-Women’s & Men’s Health Advocate

-No Stone Left Unturned

 

Asking the Right Questions about Period Pain & Gynaecological Issues.

I didn’t know how I was going to start this post, or begin to talk about what I am about to talk about, other than I got some inspiration after a text message, and a phone call later on,  from my eldest daughter yesterday. I will talk about that soon. But let’s talk about some of the phone calls and messages I get from people every day and how some of these messages gives me a heads up into what may be going on for these people and then getting them in for a proper consult and the right help.

Every day I get phone calls, emails, Facebook messages etc, from women (young and older) who are experiencing period pain, menstrual issues, and other related symptoms and nearly all of them have the same story. I have been to the GP and I have had blood tests and scans and they say that there is nothing wrong. It happens so often and it is like there is a script written for these poor women who just want to get out of pain and get some sort of normal life back. I get so annoyed when I hear this repetitious line. Not at the people telling me, but knowing that these poor women really haven’t been investigated properly at all and probably won’t be unless they come and see me.

Yesterday I got a text that I really wasn’t expecting, as it was from my eldest daughter.

It read “Hey Dad, is endometriosis hereditary?”

To which I replied “Yes it can be, why?”

I anxiously awaited the next reply and thankfully she was asking on behalf of a friend. But this poor friend had been experiencing really bad period pain and had basically had blood tests and scans and been told that everything was normal. Apparently one of the scans showed some fluid in the Pouch of Douglas (POD), which can actually be a sign of endometriosis and inflammation. Worse still, this poor girl’s mother actually has endometriosis and nobody is putting two and two together and asking the question “I wonder if the daughter may have it too?”

Well, there is more than a good chance that she does have it and thank goodness my daughter actually knows the signs and knows that scans and bloods tests cannot diagnose many gynaecological issues, especially endometriosis. Lucky my daughter also knows that you need to see an advanced trained laparoscopic surgeon who specialises in the excision of endometriosis and has done years of extra surgical training to specialise in these disease states. The good thing is that she knows that you cannot just see a regular gynaecologist to get this done.

But, not everyone is as fortunate as my daughter to know this and help her friend to come and see me to help her see my surgeon and then I can help her with management of the disease, if found (which is highly likely) after the surgery. The other good thing is that my daughter knows there is no cure for endometriosis and that surgery isn’t going to fix the problem either. She knows it will help, and is needed, but after the surgery, the management post surgery is the most important, for disease states like endometriosis. Unfortunately not many people know this and don’t have the disease managed properly post surgery. Women with endometriosis and some other inflammatory gynaecological issues will need a team approach, or a multimodality approach  post surgery, because even with the best medical intervention, it really isn’t enough and why so many women have the disease and symptoms return, or may still be in pain and have other recurring symptoms. There is never a one treatment, one pill, fix all approach to disease states such and endometriosis. This is where so many go wrong.

One of the main issues for women can be that they really have not seen the right healthcare professions, especially the right surgeon and unfortunately this is many of the women that have had surgical intervention. This one is so important.

Whenever I get messages from women in pain, or I consult with women who have period pain and all the other associated symptoms, there are some standard questions I ask, to know if they have been given the right information, been diagnosed properly, or seen the right surgeon.

  1. I always ask “what tests have you had done?” – I know that if they have only had blood tests and some scans, then these women have not been investigated, or diagnosed properly.
  2. Then I usually ask “Have you just seen your GP, or have you seen a specialist?”– Most of the time many women have not been referred onto a specialist and have only just been seen to by a GP. This is one of the biggest issues women face when it comes to gynaecological conditions. GP’s are just general practitioners. They are not gynaecologists and definitely not advanced trained laparoscopic surgeons. The best thing any woman can do is ask for a referral to a specialist and a good GP should know to do this anyway. This is one of the biggest reasons that women from all over the world take up to a decade to be diagnosed with disease states such as endometriosis. On a daily basis women are missed and dismissed and told there is nothing wrong, go on the pill, or that they have some inflammatory bowel condition, when in fact they have endometriosis, or adenomyosis, or some inflammatory gynaecological issue. Btw, this isn’t to put GP’s down, unfortunately this is what happens to so many women and why it often takes up to a decade for women to be diagnosed with diseases such as endometriosis. This is an unfortunate fact and it needs to change.
  3. Then I ask “Have you had a laparoscopy?”– One of the most common responses is “What is a laparoscopy?” and that way I know they haven’t had one done. A laparoscopy is the gold standard investigation of the pelvis and the only way to properly diagnose disease states and causes of period pain, such as endometriosis.
  4. If the woman has had surgery I then ask “was the surgery done publically, or privately?” – This will tell me a few things. It will let me know if it was just done be a public surgeon, who probably isn’t an advanced trained laparoscopic surgeon. The issue is that there really aren’t that many advanced trained laparoscopic surgeons that do public work, and even if you strike the jackpot and do happen to get one, there is a good chance they are only in a teaching role to instruct a trainee surgeon to do the surgery anyway. But mostly women do not get an advanced trained laparoscopic surgeon in the public system. It is sad, but true unfortunately. Many times the first surgery in the public sector is purely investigative too and no excision (disease removal) is performed. This means that the woman has to come back for further surgery, or surgeries.
  5. If they the woman has had surgery done previously by a private specialist then I usually ask “Who was the surgeon that did your investigation and surgical procedure?” – Sometimes I can ask if the surgeon was an advanced trained laparoscopic surgeon and the patient usually will respond to not knowing, or even know what I was talking about. That usually gives me a clue that it most probably wasn’t, but then I can go and check the specialists qualifications online and see if they are, or most probably aren’t, an advanced trained laparoscopic surgeon who has done years of extra specialised surgical training.

All those 5 questions can tell me much about what some of these poor women have had done, or haven’t had done, and then I can formulate an appropriate treatment plan and management for these women moving forward. It is always hard explaining to the ones that have had surgery before that they haven’t seen the right surgeon and that they are going to need further surgery. The hardest thing for me is seeing women on support pages about to have their first surgery and I always worry that they aren’t seeing the right surgeon and if they don’t, there is a good chance that they are still going to be going through the same issues, over and over again, until they find the right person to help them. If only I could see all these women before they did anything, so that they can be given the right information and the facts and be managed properly.

The good thing is that when I do get to see women who chose to see me, I can explain to them the  facts and the right information and then why and how with a proper surgeon, that it can make a huge difference to how they are feeling and their recovery and management post surgery. I can also explain how surgery really is necessary, but is only a small part of their overall treatment and management of their disease moving forward. I can also explain the facts around their disease moving forward too and make sure that women under my care are given the right information, the right investigations and right management going forward.

This is why my initial consultations take about an hour and a half and we go over everything from their health history, medical history, hereditary issues, diet, lifestyle, surgical intervention, medications, natural medicines, blood tests, scans, investigations, sleep, sexual health, libido and everything that a woman needs to know about her particular issues. It is also about listening to a woman’s concerns and complaints and really hearing what she has to say and is experiencing. Then I formulate a treatment plan and management and 20 page report of findings for them for what we are going to be doing to help them moving forward. I also give them a step by step treatment plan of treatments and medicines etc they will need too. That is why my motto is “No Stone Left Unturned”, because there is no stone left unturned and I also make sure they see the right people (surgeons and anyone else that they may need to see). If there are things that I can’t do (surgery etc), I make sure that my patients only see the best people and then I can help manage the rest of their disease state for them.

I wish I could see every woman before that went for any investigation, or surgery, so I can point them in the right direction and help them manage their gynaecological condition properly. This is why I am so passionate about doing my posts on social media, or giving time for charity events to talk about women’s health issues and gynaecological issues such as endometriosis, adenomyosis and PCOS. It is why I do healthcare practitioner education and seminars to help educate them better too, so that they can help their patients better and not miss and dismiss them.

I just hope that I can help those who have not been heard and that have been missed and dismissed. I also hope we can get people to listen to the things I have presented above and also help women get a voice, be heard and get government listening and get more education to younger women too.

Lastly, I cannot say it often enough….. Period Pain “IS NOT” normal and if you, or your daughter, or your sister, or your mother, or cousin, your best friend, or anyone you know has period pain, especially bad period pain and other symptoms, please, please, do not tell them that this is normal. It is not normal and they need to come and see me, or another healthcare professional who specialises in women’s health and gynaecological conditions, so that they can be investigated properly and have their issues managed properly too.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

 

 

 

The Truth About Natural Killer Cells & Miscarriage

On a daily basis we get people, who are having failed IVF cycles, calling my clinic looking for some miracle pill, to supposedly eradicate the body of natural killers cell and wipe them off the face of the planet in some war like rage, all because they have been told this will bring an end to their fertility woes.

I wish it was that easy and when my staff go on to explain that treating natural killers cells (uterine killer cells), and especially looking at the cause of natural killer cells (uterine killer cells), is complex, there is no one miracle cure, nor some magic pill, people get annoyed and hang up the phone in a huff ,without listening to the reasons why.

One of the things I always say, when people ask me about regulating natural killer cells for fertility purposes, is “How long is a piece of string?”

This is because this subject is very complex and there are many reasons why natural killer cells may be impacting implantation. So, hence the response is always going to be “How long is a piece of string?”

While Natural killer (NK) cells have an important role in the early responses to viral infections, they have also been linked with failure of pregnancy.

Increasingly, clinics are offering blood tests, at an increased cost to the patient, to measure the number and activity of circulating NK cells. As a result of these investigations, many women are offered treatments such as steroids, intravenous immunoglobulins, and tumour necrosis factor blocking agents. The scientific rationale for these tests and treatments, however, is not always supported by our current knowledge of the function of uterine NK cells.

So, I thought it was about time I set the records straight on the BS information, that seems to being handed around as gospel, by money hungry fertility clinics run by big health conglomerates, and by the rotten Dr Google, about natural killer cells (uterine killer cells) and these supposed miracle pills, that will miraculously fix someone’s fertility issues.

Let’s Look at the Facts about Natural Killer Cells Relating to Miscarriage

  1. There is no miracle pill, or one supposed miracle treatment, or a one pill solution to treat, or get rid of natural killer cells. You do not want to get rid of NK Cells.
  2. Natural Killer Cells are a natural part of the immune system designed to target inflammation, kill of cancer cells, kill off bacteria and protect the body from harmful invasion of foreign organism
  3. There is huge difference between natural killer cells that are circulating in the blood stream, compared to uterine killer cells
  4. Uterine Killer Cells are in large numbers during a pregnancy to protect the embryo
  5. Natural Killer Cells are only in large number and are only being sent out by the immune system because there is some inflammatory process going on in the pelvis, or the rest of the body
  6. You cannot regulate Natural Killer Cells numbers unless you first address the inflammatory process that is causing them to be in high numbers in the first place (Eg- Inflammatory gynaecological conditions such as PID, Endometriosis, PCOS, Adenomyosis, Adhesions, STI’s, CIN, HPV, Herpes etc)
  7. Many people have not had the proper initial fertility investigations and testing needed to actually fall pregnant in the first place and looking at Natural Killer Cells, before all that proper testing etc is done, is actually not assessing the patient properly.
  8. If you do not treat the cause of the Natural Killer Cells being in high numbers, you will not be able to reduce the numbers of Natural Killer Cells that are actually doing the job they are meant to do, which is …. Protect the Body.
  9. Many of the so called treatments for Natural Killer Cells, regarding fertility, have never been approved for such treatment and research on it is still inconclusive.
  10. Some of the treatments being proclaimed as miracle cures (Intralipids etc) are purely money making exercises that are preying on the vulnerability of people who have been told wrong information and have this perception of some killer being inside their body attacking their embryos.
  11. Intralipids have never been proven to treat Natural Killer Cells and are derived from highly inflammatory soy based compounds, which then in turn can cause more inflammation.
  12. The drugs used in the treatment of Natural Killer Cells are steroidal based and carry many side effects and are for more harmful to the body that any natural killer cell will ever be. The steroids are also a category C drug that has been shown to have an effect on the neonate
  13. Steroids, such as Prednisone, do work on regulating NK cells, but they do so by suppressing the immune system, thus compromising a person’s immunity. There are also risk to peoples minerals by using these long term and there are also other side effects to the body.
  14. Natural Killer Cells are there to protect the body, not hurt it.
  15. Natural Killer Cells are only attacking embryos because they are seen as foreign body as well and when they are there trying to kill of the diseases and issues causing inflammation in the body, they just happen to kill of any other foreign organism and inflammatory processes at the same time
  16. Again, to address natural Killer Cells, you need to address the inflammatory process as to why they are in high numbers in the first place
  17. The perception around Natural Killer Cells being this “thing” killing off embryos in the body is misguided and is actually not a true representation of what Natural Killer Cells actually do. It is purely often used to tug on the heartstrings of unsuspecting patients, who are highly emotive and clinics use these emotions to get them to pay for treatments that have never been fully proven to work.
  18. The name “Killer Cell” is too often exploited in the wrong context by many in the fertility world
  19. Blood tests cannot measure the number of Natural Killer Cells in the Uterus, Only a biopsy can do this.
  20. A Natural Killer Cell (uterine killer cells) Biopsy has to be done between the 24th and 28th day of your menstrual cycle to give the best results.
  21. Blood tests can only measure the circulating NK cells in the body and not the uterine killer cell activity, which can be the cause of recurrent miscarriage. So, if you have had a blood test, it is not measuring what is needed. Everyone will have circulating NK cells in their blood stream.
  22. The percentage of CD56+ NK cells in peripheral blood in normal healthy individuals varies from 5% to 29% (2)Despite this, more than 12% NK cells in women with infertility or miscarriage has been arbitrarily defined as abnormally raised and used as an indication for treatment (4)
  23. The percentage of NK cells in blood can be affected by many factors including sex, ethnicity, stress, and age too.

Natural Killer cells (Uterine killer cells and other NK cells) are the main immune cell-type found in the uterus. Their numbers increase through the menstrual cycle to peak at the time of implantation. If an embryo does implant, NK cell numbers increase further to 70% of all cells.

Uterine NK numbers start to decrease at around the 20 week mark of pregnancy and are all but absent at the end of pregnancy.

Natural killer cells acquired their name as a result of the initial test used to identify them in vitro. Unlike T lymphocytes, NK cells are able to spontaneously kill cells in a non-MHC restricted manner.

Regrettably, this is a misleading name in reproduction, and the powerful image of maternal cells attacking the fetus is emotive and easily exploited. None the less, these NK cells can kill off the embryo at early stages of pregnancy, but there is nearly always a reason why. That reason is inflammation in the pelvic cavity and uterus. This needs to be addressed to regulate the number of NK cells, not some notion of killing off the “Killer Cells”.

Types of Inflammation causing high Natural Killer Cells (Uterine Killer Cells)

  • Endometriosis & Adenomyosis
  • PCOS/PCO
  • Fibroids, Myomas
  • Vaginal Infections & Bacteria
  • STI’s
  • Cancer, Trauma, Localised Lesions & Others
  • Stress

Yes, stress can lead to a compromised immune system, which then leads to high TNF (Tumor Necrosing Factor) and increase Natural Killer Cells, which then leads to prolonged increase activated T Cells, and this then causes reduced implantation of embryos.

This is also a reason why any inflammation in the uterus or pelvic cavity needs to be addressed to help fix this issue and one of the reasons why any woman having fertility issues needs to be investigated and treated properly. This needs to involve proper differential diagnosis, proper pathology testing, genetic testing and surgical investigations such as laparoscopy prior to any further fertility treatment. A laparoscopy is the gold standard for addressing and treatment of issues in the uterine and pelvic cavity.

Natural Killer Cells (Uterine Killer Cells) can be a part of recurrent miscarriage, but we need to stop the misinformation and perception of them being some killer organism that isn’t meant to be in the body. They are meant to be in the body and the name is all too often exploited by many to offer unproven treatments and medications by clinics trying to increase profits.

If you want to regulate and treat natural killer cells (relating to recurrent miscarriage) properly, you need to find out what is causing them to be there in the first place. There is no magic pill to get rid of Natural Killer Cells. You cannot rid the body of Natural Killer Cells anyway. They are meant to be there. You can only regulate the amount of killer cells doing their job and you need to find out why they are in higher numbers in the first place. This is usually because there is some sort of inflammation, infection, bacteria, or malignancy going on in the body that has not been investigated properly in the first place. Let’s not forget that stress, yes stress, increases the amount of Natural Killer Cells in the body too.

At my clinic, I have a proper Natural Killer Cell protocol and treatment plan that is individually tailored and looks at the “cause” of high number of Natural Killer Cells and makes sure that proper investigations, testing and treatment are administered to treat the person properly. This can also be done alongside current medical protocols such as the Bondi protocol, or California protocol.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

(Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist)

-The International Baby Maker

-No Stone Left Unturned

References

  1. Moffett-King A. Natural killer cells and pregnancy. Nat Rev Immuol 2002;2: 656-63.[CrossRef][Web of Science][Medline]
  2. Pijnenborg R, Vercruysse L, Hanssens M, Van Assche A. Incomplete trophoblast invasion: the evidence. In: Critchley H, MacLean A, Poston L, Walker J, eds. Pre-eclampsia. London: RCOG Press, 2003: 15-2615. Parham P. NK cells and trophoblasts: partners in pregnancy. J Exp Med 2004;200: 951-5.[Abstract/Free Full Text]
  3. Hiby SE, Walker JJ, O’Shaughnessy KM, Redman CWG, Carrington M, Trowsdale J, et al. Combinations of maternal and paternal innate immune genes influence the risk of pre-eclampsia. J Exp Med 2004;200: 957-65.[Abstract/Free Full Text]
  4. Aoki K, Kajiura S, Matsumoto Y, Ogasawara M, Okada S, Yagami Y, et al. Preconceptional natural-killer-cell activity as a predictor of miscarriage. Lancet 1995;345: 1340-2.[CrossRef][Web of Science][Medline]
  5. Ntrivalas EI, Kwak-Kim JY, Gilman-Sacchs A, Chung-Bang H, Ng SC, Beaman KD, et al. Status of peripheral blood natural killer cells in women with recurrent spontaneous abortions and infertility of unknown aetiology. Hum Reprod 2001;16: 855-61.[Abstract/Free Full Text]
  6. Bisset LR, Lung TL, Kaelin M, Ludwig E, Dubs RW. Reference values for peripheral blood lymphocyte phenotypes applicable to the healthy adult population in Switzerland. Eur J Haematol 2004;72: 203-12.[CrossRef][Web of Science][Medline]
  7. Kwak JY, Kwak FM, Gilman-Sachs A, Beaman KD, Cho DD, Beer AE, et al. Immunoglobulin G infusion treatment for women with recurrent spontaneous abortions and elevated CD56+ natural killer cells. Early Preg 2000;4: 154-64.
  8. RCOG Scientific Advisory Committee. Immunological testing and interventions for reproductive failure. London: RCOG, 2003. (Opinion paper 5.)
  9. Scott JR. Immunotherapy for recurrent miscarriage. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2003;(1): CD000112.
  10. Daya S, Gunby J, Clark DA. Intravenous immunoglobulin therapy for recurrent spontaneous abortion: a meta-analysis. Am J Reprod Immunol 1998;39: 69-76.

 

 

Do you suffer pain with sex? (dyspareunia)

Do you suffer Dyspareunia?

Pain with sex, Intercourse pain, or dyspareunia, can cause problems in a womans life and it can be a cause of problems in couple’s sexual relationship. In addition to the physically painful sex, there is also the possibility of negative emotional effects. Then even when a woman may feel aroused and wanting sex, the fear of the pain can cause the whole process of wanting sex to stop.

How many people get Pain with Sex

It is estimated that about 20%-25% of women suffer vaginal pain with foreplay or intercourse. Pain can be acute, intermittent or chronic and can stem from a wide variety of causes that will be covered shortly. Unfortunately when women complaining of pain during sex, they are often dismissed as being inhibited, having psychiatric issues, or merely just making it up to get out of having sex. Many men would like to boast that it is them being well endowed that is causing the problem (they wish) but in fact if your partner is in pain, then you need to actually stop and listen to the reasons why. The fact is most of the time, their symptoms are related to legitimate medical issues that need to be investigated and treated accordingly. So guys, get your hand of it and start listening to your partner if she says she is getting pain.

What causes pain with Sex (Dyspareunia)?

In many cases, a woman can experience painful sex if there is not sufficient vaginal lubrication. There could be many reasons for this and one that is commonly seen in menopause. When this occurs, the pain can be resolved if the female becomes more relaxed, if the amount of foreplay is increased, or if the couple uses a sexual lubricant. Issues like this can easily be overcome, but there are some medical and gynaecological issues that could be causing the pain and being very much overlooked.

So what are the other causes of Pain with Sex

Endometriosis – This is a condition in which the endometrial like tissue (lesions) that lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. It can cause all sort of pain in the pelvis, bowel and rest of the body, but it can cause pain with sex. It is one of the leading conditions that does cause pain with sex. Many women with endometriosis may not have symptoms of it, or may only have one symptoms like pain with sex. Symptoms do not correlate to the extent of the disease either. Some people with small amounts get lots of pain, while others can have lots of it and have no pain. Endometriosis can only be properly diagnosed via surgery (laparoscopy)

Adenomyosis – is a condition which is very similar to endometriosis. It is a conditions in which the inner lining of the uterus (the endometrium) breaks through the muscle wall of the uterus (the myometrium). Adenomyosis can cause menstrual cramps, lower abdominal pressure etc, before the menses and can result in heavy periods.  It can also cause pain with sex. The condition can be located throughout the entire uterus, or localized in one spot

Vaginismus-  This is a common condition. It involves an involuntary spasm in the vaginal muscles, which closes up the vagina and prevents penetration from happens. It is sometimes caused by fear of being hurt.

Vaginal Infections-  These conditions are common and include yeast infections such as thrush and candida and these can cause inflammation to the vagina and cause pain with sex and also localized bleeding.

Vaginal skin conditions– Dermatitis around the vulva and also a condition called Lichen Sclerosis can all cause pain with sex due to the inflammation of the skin.

Problems with the cervix (opening to the uterus). In this case, the penis can reach the cervix at maximum penetration. So problems with the cervix (such as infections) can cause pain during deep penetration.

Problems with the uterus. These problems may include polyps, cysts, fibroids etc that can cause deep intercourse pain.

Problems with the ovaries – Problems might include cysts on the ovaries, or tubal disease.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) – Often referred to as penis injected disease. With PID, the tissues deep inside become badly inflamed and the pressure of intercourse causes deep pain.

Ectopic Pregnancy – This is a pregnancy in which a fertilized egg develops outside the uterus, or into the tubes. It can cause immense pain and even death if not death with properly.

Menopause- With menopause, the vaginal lining can lose its normal moisture and tone and become dry. The vagina, uterus and surrounding organs can all suffer atrophy, which can cause bleeding and pain. It can also cause prolapse.

Intercourse too soon after childbirth, or surgery – Trying to have sex too soon after childbirth, or a surgery,  can cause pain during sex.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s) – These may include chlamydia, genital warts (HPV), genital herpes, or other STI’s.

Injury to the vulva or vagina- These injuries may include a tear from childbirth or from a cut (episiotomy) made in the area of skin between the vagina and anus during labor.

How Can Painful Sex In Women Be Treated?

Some treatments for painful sex in women do not require medical treatment. For example, painful sex after pregnancy can be addressed by waiting at least six weeks after childbirth before having intercourse, or when a women feels she is ready again. Make sure to practice gentleness and patience. In cases in which there is vaginal dryness,  or a lack of lubrication,water-based lubricants will help. In the cases of some conditions such as menopause, topical estrogen creams may be needed to bring tone back into the vaginal wall, along with lubricants during sex.

Some of the conditions such as endometriosis, PID, fibroids, or trauma to the vagina and will require surgery and adjunct therapies such as hormones and other medications.

Other issues such as vaginal infections, bacterial infections, skin conditions, STI’s etc may just need medications such as antibiotics, antifungals, steroids and other medications for their treatment

Some conditions like vaginismus, or psychological traumas (sexual abuse), may require a person to see a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or sex therapist.

There are also natural medicines such as Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal medicine, naturopathy, herbal supplement etc than can help with pain, either on their own, or in combination with medical treatments and talk therapy

If you do have pain with sex, you need to go and speak to your healthcare provider, or seek the help of a gynaecologist, or women’s health specialist.

Pain with sex is not normal, and you need to find out the cause of these issues and not put it off. At my clinic, I can help you if you are having pain with sex.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

Could your health issues be coming from your Thyroid?

E5PRGR Doctor examining the thyroid gland of a patient.

Thyroid issues are common, especially in women and especially if there is a family history of thyroid disorders in your family. When your thyroid goes out of balance, it can cause all sorts of symptoms and issues in your body. You need to know what to look for.

When Your Thyroid Goes Awry

Does fatigue drag you down day after day?

Do you have brain fog, weight gain, chills, or hair loss?

Or is the opposite true for you: Are you often revved up, sweaty, or anxious?

Your thyroid gland could be to blame. This great regulator of body and mind sometimes goes haywire, particularly in women. Pregnancy and postpartum is when it can also go haywire too. Getting the right treatment is critical to feel your best and avoid serious health problems.

What Is the Thyroid Gland?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. It produces hormones that control the speed of your metabolism — the system that helps the body use energy. Thyroid disorders can slow down or rev up metabolism by disrupting the production of thyroid hormones. When hormone levels become too low or too high, you may experience a wide range of symptoms.

Symptom: Weight Gain or Loss

An unexplained change in weight is one of the most common signs of a thyroid disorder. Weight gain may signal low levels of thyroid hormones, a condition called hypothyroidism. In contrast, if the thyroid produces more hormones than the body needs, you may lose weight unexpectedly. This is known as hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism is far more common.

Symptom: Swelling in the Neck

A swelling or enlargement in the neck is a visible clue that something may be wrong with the thyroid. A goiter may occur with either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Sometimes swelling in the neck can result from thyroid cancer or nodules, lumps that grow inside the thyroid. It can also be due to a cause unrelated to the thyroid.

Symptom: Changes in Heart Rate

Thyroid hormones affect nearly every organ in the body and can influence how quickly the heart beats. People with hypothyroidism may notice their heart rate is slower than usual. Hyperthyroidism may cause the heart to speed up. It can also trigger increased blood pressure and the sensation of a pounding heart, or other types of heart palpitations.

Symptom: Changes in Energy or Mood

Thyroid disorders can have a noticeable impact on your energy level and mood. Hypothyroidism tends to make people feel tired, sluggish, and depressed. Hyperthyroidism can cause anxiety, problems sleeping, restlessness, and irritability.

Symptom: Hair Loss

Hair loss is another sign that thyroid hormones may be out of balance. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause hair to fall out. In most cases, the hair will grow back once the thyroid disorder is treated.

Symptom: Feeling Too Cold or Hot

Thyroid disorders can disrupt the ability to regulate body temperature. People with hypothyroidism may feel cold more often than usual. Hyperthyroidism tends to have the opposite effect, causing excessive sweating and an aversion to heat.

Other Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism can cause many other symptoms, including:

  • Dry skin and brittle nails
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands
  • Constipation
  • Abnormal menstrual periods

Other Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism can also cause additional symptoms, such as:

  • Muscle weakness or trembling hands
  • Vision problems
  • Diarrhea
  • Irregular menstrual periods

Thyroid Disorder or Menopause?

Because thyroid disorders can cause changes in menstrual cycle and mood, the symptoms are sometimes mistaken for menopause. If a thyroid problem is suspected, a simple blood test can determine whether the true culprit is menopause or a thyroid disorder — or a combination of the two.

Who Should Be Tested?

If you think you have symptoms of a thyroid problem, ask your doctor if you should be tested. People with symptoms or risk factors may need tests more often. Hypothyroidism more frequently affects women over age 60. Hyperthyroidism is also more common in women. A family history raises your risk of either disorder.

Thyroid Neck Check

A careful look in the mirror may help you spot an enlarged thyroid that needs a doctor’s attention. Tip your head back, take a drink of water, and as you swallow, examine your neck below the Adam’s apple and above the collarbone. Look for bulges or protrusions, then repeat the process a few times. See a doctor promptly if you see a bulge or lump.

Diagnosing Thyroid Disorders

If your doctor suspects a thyroid disorder, a blood test can help provide an answer. This test measures the level of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), a kind of master hormone that regulates the work of the thyroid gland. If TSH is high, it typically means that your thyroid function is too low (hypothyroid). If TSH is low, then it generally means the thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroid.) But just measuring TSH levels is not enough. People with thyroid disorders can have normal TSH levels and the other thyroid hormone levels and this is why thyroid antibody testing is probably the most important testing to be done. High thyroid antibodies mean you have a thyroid condition and your thyroid gland is under attack. Hopefully doctor will want to check all the other thyroid hormones in your blood. If he/she doesn’t, make sure they do. They should always check TSH, Free T3, Free T4, Reverse T3 and Thyroid antibodies. In some cases, imaging studies are used and biopsies are taken to evaluate a thyroid abnormality.

Hashimoto’s Disease

The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease. This is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the thyroid gland. The result is damage to the thyroid, preventing it from producing enough hormones. Hashimoto’s disease tends to run in families. This is why thyroid antibodies needs to be checked because people with Hashimotos disease can actually have normal TSH levels and normal Free T3, Free T4 and reverse T3 levels.

Other Causes of Hypothyroidism

In some cases, hypothyroidism results from a problem with the pituitary gland, which is at the base of the brain. This gland produces thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which tells the thyroid to do its job. If your pituitary gland does not produce enough TSH, levels of thyroid hormones will fall. Other causes of hypothyroidism include temporary inflammation of the thyroid or medications that affect thyroid function.

Graves’ Disease

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease. This is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the thyroid gland and triggers the release of high levels of thyroid hormones. One of the hallmarks of Graves’ disease is a visible and uncomfortable swelling behind the eyes. Again this is why testing thyroid antibodies is so important.

Other Causes of Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism can also result from thyroid nodules. These are lumps that develop inside the thyroid and sometimes begin producing thyroid hormones. Large lumps may create a noticeable goiter. Smaller lumps can be detected with ultrasound. A thyroid uptake and scan can tell if the lump is producing too much thyroid hormone.

Thyroid Disorder Complications

When left untreated, hypothyroidism can raise cholesterol levels and make you more likely to have a stroke or heart attack. In severe cases, very low levels of thyroid hormones can trigger a loss of consciousness and life-threatening drop in body temperature. Untreated hyperthyroidism can cause serious heart problems and brittle bones.

Treating Hypothyroidism

If you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, your doctor will most likely prescribe thyroid hormones in the form of a pill. This usually leads to noticeable improvements within a couple of weeks. Long-term treatment can result in more energy, lower cholesterol levels, and gradual weight loss. Most people with hypothyroidism will need to take thyroid hormones for the rest of their lives.

Treating Hyperthyroidism

The most common treatment for hyperthyroidism is antithyroid medication, which aims to lower the amount of hormones produced by the thyroid. The condition may eventually go away, but many people need to remain on medication for the long term. Other drugs may be given to reduce symptoms such as rapid pulse and tremors. Another option is radioactive iodine, which destroys the thyroid gland over the course of 6 to 18 weeks. Once the gland is destroyed, or removed by surgery, most patients must begin taking thyroid hormones in pill form.

Surgery for Thyroid Disorders

Removing the thyroid gland can cure hyperthyroidism, but the procedure is only recommended if antithyroid drugs don’t work, or if there is a large goiter. Surgery may also be recommended for patients with thyroid nodules. Once the thyroid is removed, most patients require daily supplements of thyroid hormones to avoid developing hypothyroidism.

What About Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer is uncommon and is among the least deadly. The good thing with thyroid cancer is that it is encapsulated, so it won’t spread. Once the thyroid gland is removed, the cancer is removed also. The main symptom is a lump or swelling in the neck, and only about 5% of thyroid nodules turn out to be cancerous. When thyroid cancer is diagnosed, it is most often treated with surgery followed by radioactive iodine therapy or, in some cases, external radiation therapy

Complementary Medicine For Thyroid Issues

There are many complementary medicines that can assist thyroid issues and Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine has successfully treated thyroid disorders for centuries.

There are also supplements and other herbal medicine to assist thyroid function, or balancing the thyroid hormones. Diet and lifestyle changes are also very important for thyroid health, as is working on the gut to reduce inflammation in the body and assist the immune system as well. There are also compounded natural thyroid medications we can discuss with you also

At my clinic,  I can help with all hormone issues and can help you with thyroid testing, blood tests etc and thyroid management.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-Women’s and Men’s Health Advocate

-No Stone Left Unturned

Are you Stressed? … or are you in Denial?

Most people suffer from stress at some point in their lives. There is good stress and there is bad stress and how people cope with these stresses in different for each and every individual. It is all about how you cope with it. Showing signs of stress does not mean that you are a weak person, just human like everybody else.

But, the word stress is probably not used correctly at times. Many people are actually suffering anxiety, or running on adrenalin and then say they are stressed .The word stress is such a broad term. These days the word stress probably means either you have anxiety, or you are busy being busy.

What do we now define as stress?

Stress is the description used for strain, pressure or force on a system. That system may be you. Stress can be the result of trivial annoyances like driving in heavy traffic, or a life-altering major crisis such as the death of a loved one. Stress can also be someone being busy, or someone running on adrenalin too much. Like I said before, stress could also be someone who is suffering from anxiety and then terms it as stress.

Stress can be used both to refer to the event that is causing the disturbance or the effects of that event on your body. Usually when we say we are feeling stressed we are talking about the symptoms caused by our body’s stress response.

There is no doubt that there are different forms of stress and probably the biggest issue for people these days is actually realising that their body is in distress. It is that constant low grade stress that affects so many people and causes so many issues in the body. That low grade stress is the one that eventually catches up with people and can sometimes have very detrimental effects.

The one thing we know for sure is that stress is a cause of a lot of our health issues, immune system issues, reproductive issues, gynaecological issues, mental health issues, respiratory and cardiovascular issues, sleep issues and so on.

Nobody is born stressed, or is predisposed to being stress. It is a learnt behaviour that can be unlearnt and that is why seeing someone to help with coping strategies around stress is so important. There are also supplements and medicines that can help to deal with stress more effectively too.

What are the Symptoms and effects of stress?

Some of the symptoms and health problems that can be caused or exacerbated by high levels of ongoing stress include:

  • migraine or tension-induced headaches;
  • insomnia, fitful sleeping or nightmares;
  • anxiety, anger or irritability;
  • low, irritable or unstable mood;
  • memory lapses;
  • shoulder, neck or back pain;
  • fatigue;
  • rapid heartbeat;
  • high blood pressure;
  • skin eruptions and worsening of conditions such as eczema;
  • heartburn, nausea (feeling sick), diarrhoea or constipation;
  • reduced libido;
  • shortness of breath;
  • problems with your immune system;
  • heart disease; and
  • chronic pain.

Like I mentioned before, stress can also affect the reproductive system, cardiovascular system, nervous system, immune system and so much more.

How stress affects your body

At the first sign of alarm, certain sensory nerves in your body are stimulated and hormones are released that automatically trigger physical reactions to stress. Your heart rate increases, blood is diverted to your muscles and brain, breathing rate increases, digestion slows down, saliva production stops (your mouth feels dry), perspiration increases and your pupils widen. You feel tense, you startle easily and your attention narrows to focus on possible threats.

This is the ‘fight or flight’ phenomenon, which makes your body tense, alert, and ready for action. After this reaction to a real or perceived threat, your body stays on alert until you feel the danger has passed. When the stressor is gone, the brain signals an ‘all clear’, and your body gradually returns to normal.

While some short-term stress is thought to be good for you, pushing you to make that extra effort in a sporting event or game, chronic or long-term stress can be harmful to your health. This kind of stress is when you feel under constant, intense pressure, or you just cannot see a way out of a terrible situation. The problem for some people is that they do not realise they are stressed, or they actually have anxiety, and their body is in the state of constant adrenal overload that eventually catches up with them and their whole body shuts down completely. We see this with adrenal fatigue and chronic fatigue

Dealing with stress

Dealing with stress effectively can be complicated, but usually involves:

  • general measures to improve your overall wellbeing; and
  • learning coping skills and setting healthy boundaries
  • specific steps to deal with stress and particular challenging situations.
  • learning what your triggers may be
  • learning ways to deal with stress and how to be more relaxed

It is about getting coping skills to deal with the body having to deal with stress, or at point of perceived crisis.

The word that we term “Stress” commonly results when you feel your resources — for example, time, money or skills — are insufficient to deal with your responsibilities. Take check of what is causing you stress and where you examine your demands and resources can be a useful first step in dealing with stress. There is where the practice of mindfulness is very useful and also talking to a counsellor/psychologist can help you identify triggers for stress and have coping skills to deal with stress.

Problem solving techniques and coping skills may help you with problems and issues creating stress. You may also need to work on limiting your obligations, or asking for extra resources to help you cope with stress better. You may need to accept that there are times in life where you simply can’t do everything that others in your life, or you yourself are expecting.

One way to help deal with stress is to maintain a healthier mind and body. Here are some of the things you can do to deal with stress better.

Ways to Deal With Stress Better

  • Regular exercise to help with stress and tension in the body. It also helps with moods.
  • Make sure you get at least 1-4 hours “You” time per week. Treat yourself to sufficient relaxation time so that you can switch off from you daily routine. This will help to give you a refreshed and energetic outlook on life. Learn yoga, meditation or other relaxation exercises such as mindfulness. There are some great mindfulness courses available now.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep. Melatonin is the hormone that helps you sleep and lack of sleep and stress depletes it. Lack of sleep also puts the body into distress.
  • Maintain a balanced diet. Without a balanced and health diet, your body will have inflammation and this will cause stress and disharmony in the body too.
  • Learn to accept what you cannot change but also learn to be more assertive, especially if you are one of those people who always say ‘yes’. Healthy boundaries are so important.  Assertiveness training, setting clear boundaries and learning to say no can be very helpful in avoiding overload.
  • Make sure you do something that you love at least 1-2 times per week. Spend time with people you enjoy seeing, listening to music, playing sport, reading a book, watching a funny movie, gardening etc.
  • Talk therapy and coping skills: Talk therapy with a trained professional that can help you deal with stress and help you with coping skills is very important.
  • Avoid the use of drugs or alcohol as a means of coping with stress.
  • Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can help with stress and studies have shown that it is better than medication and equal to talk therapy in its effect
  • There are natural medicines that can help you deal with the affects of stress and please talk to a qualified healthcare professional how best these can help and what to use. Do not self prescribe ever.

How do I know if I need help?

Many people think that they can deal with stress on their own, but the truth is it is better to get a trained professional to help you deal with it properly. This way you commit to actively doing something too and you are also learning coping skills at the same time. You should consider seeking help if:

  • you constantly worry and have trouble concentrating;
  • you feel a lot of guilt;
  • your sleep, energy and motivation is poor;
  • you can’t be bothered doing things anymore;
  • you experience several of the physical symptoms associated with stress;
  • you recognise that you are turning to self-destructive behaviours for temporary relief;
  • everything and everybody around you is being affected by the way you feel; or
  • you feel as though there’s nowhere to turn.
  • Friends keep telling you that you look stressed, or look like you need to slow down

There are qualified professionals who can help you with dealing with stress. It is important that you do see the right person to help you and your individual situation. You can always speak to your doctor or healthcare practitioner and ask them for a referral to someone. There are also mindfulness courses and relaxation courses you can do also. Exercise it important and again, it is a good idea help from a professional to get started and keep going.

Please take the risk of burnout and running on Adrenalin tests below and see how you are fairing (see below)

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

Risk of Burnout Challenge

  1. Do you feel let down by other people around you?
  2. Are you too busy for close friends and family?
  3. Are you too busy to do even routine things like send out thank-you notes, return phone calls or mail birthday cards?
  1. Do you tire more easily than you used to?
  2. Are you working harder but accomplishing less?
  3. Are you increasingly cynical and disenchanted?
  4. Are you often invaded by a sadness that you can’t explain?
  5. Do you forget appointments, deadlines, possessions?
  6. Are you increasingly irritable? More short tempered?
  7. Does you body ache or are you having trouble shaking a cold?
  8. Are you finding it harder to be happy and joyful?
  9. Have you lost your sense of humour?
  10. Have you lost interest in sex or have a low libido?
  11. Are you less talkative than you used to be?
  12. Do you think of work all the time, even at rest?
  13. Do you find it hard to say ‘no’ to people or things that require your own personal time?
  14. Do you take time-out for others but do not take time-out for yourself?

Your score

To find your total , add up your “yes” answers.

(0 – 5) >> Cruising along nicely

(5 – 10) >>  Borderline burnout

(10 – 17) >> Burnout candidate

 

Running on Adrenalin Challenge

  1. I feel there isn’t enough time in the day to do all the things need to do.
  2. I speak more quickly than other people, even finishing their sentences for them.
  3. My relatives and friends say I eat too quickly.
  4. I would rather win than enjoy a game.
  5. I am very competitive at work, sports or games.
  6. I tend to be bossy and dominate others.
  7. I prefer to lead than follow.
  8. I feel pressed for time even when I’m not doing something important.
  9. I become more impatient when I have to wait for something or when I’m interrupted.
  10. I tend to make decisions quickly and compulsively.
  11. I take on more than I can accomplish.
  12. I become irritable and even angry, more than other people.
  13. I feel a strong compulsion to be doing something while at home or even on holidays.
  14. I fidget often and become restless, pacing, leg kicking, or fast gum chewing.
  15. I get a vague sense of depression whenever I stop an activity.
  16. I have forgotten how to, or don’t know, how to relax.

 

Score description

0 – This does not apply to me

1 – This statement applies to me less than once per month

2 – This statement applies to me on a regular basis

 

Total score

Out of a possible score of 32 you would have fallen into one of the 4 following categories…

(0 – 10) >> Relaxed

(10 – 15) >> Typical

(15 – 20) >> On the edge

(20 +) >> Adrenalin Junkie!

 

How to cope with endometriosis and manage it moving forward

Endometriosis can be a challenging condition to deal with, both physically and emotionally. But with proper interventions and proper management and treatments after diagnosis, you can be shown how to deal with the associated symptoms of endometriosis and improve your quality of life. Please have a read of some of the best ways to cope with endometriosis.

Endometriosis can be painful disorder that is characterized by tissue that behaves like the lining of the uterus but that grows outside the uterus. Endometriosis is really normal tissue growing in abnormal places. This tissue can be found in various places, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvic lining, and even in or around the bladder and bowel.

Endometriosis affects around 1 in 10 women and girls and those are only the ones diagnosed. This mean these figures are grossly under-diagnosed and downplayed with many women not being diagnosed properly and those that do not even know they have the disease. Endometriosis can cause symptoms during the reproductive years, between the ages of 12 and 60, but it can show up in young girls under 10 years old too.  Many people with the condition remain undiagnosed and many more and missed and dismissed with many taking up to ten years or more to be diagnosed.

The main symptom of the condition is usually pelvic pain typically associated with the menstrual period. While women can experience some discomfort during their menstrual period, some of those with endometriosis describe pain that is worse than usual. For some it is actually unbearable. There are also other symptoms such as painful periods, pelvic pain, ovulation pain, pain with sex, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel like symptoms, bladder issues and pain and bleeding on bowel movement. This is why all women need to know that period pain is not normal, because many times, period pain can actually be a sign that a woman has an underlining gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis

There is no cure for endometriosis (not yet anyway), but there are treatment options and lifestyle changes that can ease your symptoms so that the condition does not interfere with your day-to-day life. The main thing with endometriosis is to manage the disease and try and create a quality of life moving forward. While there is no cure for endometriosis, it is possible for women to become asymptomatic (meaning having no symptoms) and this requires the right treatments and management of the disease and to see the right people from the beginning. Again, it all gets back to who you are seeing and their experience with knowing about endometriosis. This is one the biggest issues women face when trying to get treatment. Many just do not know much about the disease at all and why women are left to deal with the horrible symptoms. But with the right treatment and management, women can have a better life and be able to cope with this horrible disease.

Before we look at proper management for women with endometriosis, it is important that all understand the facts because there is so much misinformation out there and this is part of the bigger issue for women with this disease.

The Facts About Endometriosis

  1. Period Pain IS NOT Normal
  2. A significant portion of women with Endometriosis are asymptomatic
  3. Symptoms DO NOT correlate to the extent of the disease
  4. The only way to diagnose Endometriosis definitely is via surgical intervention
  5. There is NO cure for Endometriosis
  6. Having a baby will not cure endometriosis
  7. Endometriosis does not always cause infertility
  8. Endometriosis is Estrogen Driven and is not caused by Estrogen dominance
  9. The Pill, or Contraceptives DO NOT fix endometriosis
  10. You can have Endometriosis at a Young, or Older Age
  11. Hysterectomy does not cure endometriosis
  12. Endometriosis requires a multi-modality approach to be managed properly. You need a team for proper management
  13. Endometriosis IS NOT an autoimmune disease
  14. There Are Hereditary and Genetic links
  15. Endometriosis can cause many other issues in the body
  16. The first line approach for hormone therapy should be the use of progesterone only options
  17. Endometriosis needs to be excised (cut out) by an advanced laparoscopic surgeon, who has had extra years of specialised surgical training, and who specialised in the excision of the disease and specialised in the disease itself. Surgery should be performed by anyone other than an advanced laparoscopic surgeon and not by just a regular gynaecologist
  18. Not all women with endometriosis have suffered sexual abuse

 

What Women Can Do To Help Manage Endometriosis

1.Seeing the Right Specialist & Surgeon

First and foremost make sure you have seen someone who specialises in endometriosis and the management and treatments moving forward. You also need to make sure that your first surgery is your best surgery and that you have seen an advanced laparoscopic surgeon to ensure you have had the proper surgical intervention. This is many women’s biggest issue as they have not seen the proper surgeon initially and they aren’t seeing someone who specialises in the management of the disease moving forward.

2.Watch your diet

Eating the right foods may provide some protection from the symptoms of endometriosis. The role of diet in endometriosis has been investigated in recent years due to the influence of diet on some of the processes linked to the disease, such as inflammation, prostaglandin metabolism, and estrogen activity. Many of the so called endometriosis diets out there are now outdated and have outdated nutritional and dietary advice that don’t really help much at all. Women need to adopt an anti-inflammatory (grain free, primal, ketogenic style diet) to help with settling any inflammation in the body and also helping the immune system. This also needs to include prebiotic and probiotic bacteria to help with digestive function, immunity and gut health.

Certain environmental estrogens such as preservatives, plastics, pesticides and insecticides that can be ingested through certain nutrients have been suggested as risk factors for exacerbating endometriosis too.

Excess body fat, now known as obestrogens (because it is estrogenic) needs to be controlled and managed through diet and exercise too. We know that estrogen drive endometriosis and that any estrogens (dietary, body fats, environmental etc) needs to be regulated and controlled.

3.Boost intake of omega-3 fatty acids

Researchers have also found that the type of fat included in your diet makes a difference in your risk of endometriosis. Studies have shown that people whose diets were heavily laden with trans fats increased their risk of the expression of endometriosis by 48 % when compared with individuals who ate the least of these. By comparison, women whose diets were rich in omega-3 oils lowered their risk of endometriosis by 22 % compared with those who consumed the least amount.

Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, flaxseeds, almonds, and walnuts, may be helpful for endometriosis. Women should also be supplementing with Omega 3 oils too. Just remember, it is all about reducing inflammation.

4.Exercise

Often, people who experience pain fear exercising, in case it causes more problems for them. But over time, regular physical activity may decrease the pain and discomfort that you feel. High-intensity exercise and resistance training can help to reduce the symptoms of endometriosis.

Exercise may help those with endometriosis in many ways, including:

  • encouraging the circulation of blood to your organs
  • maintaining nutrients and oxygen flow to all your body systems
  • decreasing estrogen production
  • reducing stress
  • releasing endorphins in the brain, which are pain-relieving, “feel good” chemicals

Women who regularly exercise may be likely to have the symptoms associated with endometriosis. Research has shown that those who engage in frequent high-intensity physical activity have fewer symptoms of  endometriosis than women who do not participate in regular exercise. High-intensity physical activity, such as running, swimming, weight training etc, may be beneficial for reducing your symptoms.

Low-intensity exercise, including Yoga and Pilates may provide some relief in endometriosis, too. Yoga and Pilates can stretch and strengthen your muscles, help with core strength, help with circulation, which all may be beneficial for pelvic pain management and stress reduction.

5.Managing Stress Levels

Stress is a big factor in any disease and can make any disease worse. Not only can stress be exacerbated by endometriosis, but so can endometriosis symptoms be exacerbated by stress, in a never-ending cycle. Endometriosis could contribute to making your stress levels worse, due to the impact that the associated symptoms have on all aspects of your life, including family and personal relationships and work.

Stress management, Counselling, Mindfulness and Relaxation techniques can help to reduce stress that exacerbates endometriosis-related symptoms and pain.

Women with endometriosis need to manage stress by using mindfulness and relaxation techniques. These can help you to increase your awareness of your body, refocus on something calming, and reduce the activity of stress hormones and inflammation in the body. It is all about learning coping mechanisms and what works best for you, not what works best for others.

6.Try complementary medicine and therapies

Many women with Endometriosis find symptom relief from using a range of different complementary and alternative medicines. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists also recommends that women try natural medicines to help with the management of endometriosis and the associated symptoms. There is now some good research to support many natural medicines treatments such as acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, vitamins, omega 3 oils, probiotics, chiropractic/osteopathy, yoga, pilates and more.

Out of all the natural medicine therapies, Acupuncture and Chinese medicines has been the most researched and have shown to be the most beneficial to those suffering this disease and its associated symptoms.

Certain strains of prebiotics and probiotics have also been shown to help with the immune system, microbiome, bowel, and digestive associated symptoms of endometriosis. Probiotics have also been shown to not only help with digestive and immune function, but also with the psychological function as well. It does need to be specific strains of probiotics though.

Just like with medical treatments, when it comes to complementary medicines, it is important to find someone who is a qualified practitioner and who specialises in endometriosis. Just like in the medical model, this can also be hard to find.

7.Medications

Your endometriosis specialist can provide you with a list of treatment options for endometriosis and outline the risks and benefits of each. They will take into account your age, your symptoms, whether you want to become pregnant, and any treatments that you have had previously. It is important to manage pain and inflammation so that you can have a life and to be able to function daily.

You may need to use different forms of pain medications on script, as well as those that can be purchased over the counter. Please ensure you speak to your healthcare provider about setting up a pain management plan when using medications

You will also need to look at hormone therapy to help slow down the growth and expression of the disease and microscopic implants and also help with the associated symptoms of the disease. Hormones will usually be in the form of progesterone only medications and gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonists and agonists. You may be prescribed other hormones depending on your individual case and symptoms.

Although all of these hormone therapies are effective at treating endometriosis, but,  they all have different side effects. You need to talk to your doctor and pharmacists about the side effects and risk factors of any medications and hormones that you are taking.

In Summary

It is important to know that women with endometriosis will need a multi-modality, or team approach to deal with this disease. The team you need and modalities that you will need will be dependent on your individual symptoms. Try and find healthcare professionals that can offer you a multi-modality approach for ongoing care and support and who also have a team of other people who specialise in the disease too. Again, the approach that you and your specialist choose to take will vary depending on your signs and symptoms, and whether or not you would like to become pregnant in the future.

Before starting any treatment, it is important to know all of your options and the potential outcomes of all of them and to know that the people that you are seeing are specialists in endometriosis and know how to manage the disease properly. That can often be the hardest thing to find and why you need to do your homework and see people who are specialists in this area of medicine.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

-Period Pain IS NOT Normal

 

Incontinence, Bladder issues and Weak Pelvic Floor

Incontinence is often an embarrassing condition that will have more than a third of people suffering in silence because they are too embarrassed to seek treatment. Both men and women can suffer incontinence. Although patients don’t die of incontinence, they often can’t live a fully productive life, they may have to curtail their workload or change jobs. Many factory workers and school teachers are only allowed set times for toilet breaks, so patient with urge incontinence may have to change jobs. Patients who work in the military or the police force may have to resort to desk jobs. Too many women with incontinence stop having sexual intercourse, either because they are afraid they will leak during sex, or else they actually do leak, either at penetration, or at time of orgasm, which can be very disastrous. While men can also suffer incontinence, I am mainly going to focus on the causes of incontinence in women for this post.

Many people don’t seek treatment because they also believe that surgery is their only option. Nothing could be further from the truth and surgery should only be used as a last resort once conservative methods have been used and aren’t working. Even then, the surgical approaches used today are less invasive, are very effective and the recovery is very quick. It is not like it was 10-20 years ago. Keyhole surgery has really made major changes in this area and new surgical techniques are so highly effective.  I know people want to avoid any surgery, but sometimes it is needed and these days the recovery rates are so quick. A few days out of your life for recovery, can actually change your whole life. I just do not understand why anyone would put up with a life with incontinence, prolapse, or weak pelvic floor, when these issues are so easily fixed these days. I know many patients are so amazed at how easily their incontinence issues was fixed and how amazing they feel in getting their life back again. No more leakage when they laugh, cough, or exercise.

Some people never seek treatment believing that incontinence is just a normal part of life. Again, this is not true and all and I encourage anyone with incontinence to come and talk to me, or you pelvic floor specialist, so we can help treat you and can also refer you to the right people for treatment and management if needed. I know my pelvic floor/urodynamic surgeon is amazing and what he can do for women and these issues is amazing too. Then I just help with the management and strengthening moving forward.

Like I said before, surgery isn’t always needed. Many times conservative measures such as pelvic floor exercises, core strengthening, bladder toning, topical estrogen therapy, internal TENS (electrostimulation) and pulse magnetic therapy can all product fantastic long term treatment to this often debilitating condition, without the need for surgery. There are also some special rings and other devices that can be used to prevent leakage and support prolapsed bladder and also vaginal prolapse causing incontinence. Men with incontinence also have options at hand and these can also be explored well before surgery is needed. What people need to be aware of too, is that if you have been doing all the conservative treatments, and they aren’t helping, then it is time to get some surgical intervention. I think people think that pelvic floor exercises with fix all bladder and pelvic floor issues, and this doesn’t work, then there is nothing that can be done to help them. I need for all women (and men) to know that there is always help for bladder and pelvic floor issues and you just need to see a specialist, not just your GP.

On a natural medicine level, acupuncture has been shown to be very effective in the treatment and management of pelvic pain, prolapse and incontinence. Anyone with incontinence should be using acupuncture as part of their overall management. There are also Chinese herbal medicines that can help with toning the pelvic floor and bladder to help stop incontinence. Yoga and Pilates may also help toning of the pelvic floor and help managing incontinence, pelvic floor and post-surgical management of prolapse too.

Incontinence and bladder issues are defined as needing to pass urine more than 8 times per day, leakage of urine through cough, sneeze, urge, or without cause. It is important to seek help if you notice damp underwear, need to use pads because of leakage or are constantly running to the loo to pass urine.

There are many different types of incontinence with the main ones defined as stress incontinence, urge incontinence and voiding dysfunction/incomplete emptying. There is also mixed incontinence (mix of the 3 main ones) and also a term called overactive bladder syndrome which can be a mixture of all forms of incontinence. There are also inflammatory bladder conditions that cause incontinence such as bacterial cystitis and interstitial cystitis. Physical issues such as previous surgery, childbirth and prolapse can also cause incontinence too.

The first task for the clinician is to find out how severe the incontinence is, based on the frequency of leakage, whether the woman finds it necessary to use incontinence pads, and if so how many pads. Some patients may prefer to change their underwear more frequently, while others may tuck tissue paper inside their underwear, and just throw away the tissues whenever they are damp.

The classic feature of stress incontinence is that the patient leaks with coughing, sneezing, laughing, running, playing sport or lifting heavy objects

The classic feature of urge incontinence is that the patient rushes to the toilet with an urgent desire to pass urine, but as she gets to the loo and is taking down her trousers, the urine comes away from her- sometimes before she has even sat down. Unfortunately these patients cannot predict when these bladder spasms will come upon them, and therefore can’t really tell when they are likely to leak.

Nocturia is defined as being woken up by your bladder needing to go to the toilet- as opposed to being woken up by a crying baby, a snoring husband, or menopausal night sweats. However nocturia is age dependent. Nocturia is defined as waking 1 or more times per night if under 60 years of age

Typically this patient Voiding dysfunction/ Emptying difficulty has to strain to commence voiding (called “hesitancy”). She may also have observed that when she compares herself to other women urinating in the toilets at the movies or in airports, her stream seems poorer than others with the urine dribbling out more slowly. She will often also describe the sensation of incomplete emptying and may need to go back to the toilet within a relatively short time to re-void. Sometimes she will leak as she gets off the toilet, which is how she realises that she is not empty. This is called post-micturition dribble incontinence.

In males these symptoms most commonly occur when the prostate gland is enlarged- causing a relative urethral obstruction and making it more difficult for the urine to get out. These men have chronic high residual urine, so they end up going to the toilet very frequently in a vain attempt to empty out. They often dribble urine onto their clothes. When such men have prostatic surgery they usually find that their urine flow rate returns to normal and they usually stop dribbling.

We will also need to explore how inflammation of the urinary bladder leads to suprapubic pain, and consider the two main causes of this, Bacterial Cystitis and Interstitial Cystitis .It often feels difficult to treat incontinence in the presence of bacterial cystitis, because such patients are overwhelmed by frequency and urgency of micturition and they may experience disabling suprapubic pain. It is fixable with the right treatment though. It all gets back to who is managing you.

On the other hand, a separate cause of Urinary Pain, called Interstitial Cystitis, does not usually cause much incontinence at all- it just causes suprapubic (bladder) pain with severe frequency and urgency of micturition.

The overactive bladder (OAB) is a clinical syndrome, not a urodynamic diagnosis. It comprises frequency, urgency, and nocturia, with or without urge incontinence.

Gynaecological conditions such as Endometriosis and Adenomyosis etc can also cause issues with bladder and pelvic floor.

Please read my post on Atrophic vaginitis as this is also another cause of weakness in the pelvic floor and bladder and could be a cause of incontinence.

No matter what sort of incontinence you have, there is always an answer and a solution to your problem. Not all solutions are surgical either. More often than not some conservative treatments, some exercises and some acupuncture is all that is needed. Sometimes all some women need is some treatments with estrogen creams to help with tone in the vagina, bladder and pelvic floor

Surgery and now bionic devices are always an option for those whom have tried conservative options and aren’t getting the desired results. Surgery is often used because of quality of life issues. Again surgery these days is so effective and less invasive and the recovery is so much quicker due to keyhole surgery and new surgical interventions.

If you are experiencing incontinence or bladder issues, please book in and see me, or a good pelvic floor/urodynamic specialist, so you can be evaluated properly and see what is going on and implement the right treatment strategies to get your quality of life back again. Many times there may be an easy non-invasive treatment for your particular issues. Even when surgical intervention is needed, these days even this is less invasive than it used to be and the recovery and results are very quick.

Please read my post of Atrophic Vaginitis as well as this all ties into this area too, especially for those women in the menopause and post menopausal time of their life.

 

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

– Women’s & Men’s Health Advocate

What Is Lichen Sclerosus?

Lichen sclerosus is a long-term problem of the skin. It mostly affects the genital and anal areas. Sometimes, lichen sclerosus appears on the upper body, breasts, and upper arms. For this article I am just going to talk about Lichen Sclerosus of the genital region (Vulva) and more around how this affects women and how it can be treated and managed. Lichen sclerosus can cause itching, pain and scarring of the affected areas, but there are treatments available that can relieve symptoms and prevent and treat scarring.

Who Does Lichen Sclerosis Affect?

While anyone can get lichen sclerosus at any age, women after the menopause have the highest risk. In fact, it is about 10 times more common in women than in men. It is possible, but rare, for children to be affected.

What Are the Symptoms?

Early in the disease, small white spots appear on the skin. The spots are usually shiny and smooth. Later, the spots grow into bigger patches. The skin on the patches becomes thin and crinkled. The skin may also be inflamed and red or ulcerated from scratching.

Skin affected by lichen sclerosus can tear easily, and there may be tiny fissures (cracks in the skin). When severe, there may be bleeding and blistering.Sometimes, the skin becomes scarred. If the disease is a mild case, there may be no symptoms. 
Other symptoms are:

  • Itching (very common)
  • Discomfort or pain
  • Bleeding

Genital lichen sclerosus

Lichen sclerosus that affects the vulva usually feels intensely itchy. There may also be pain, stinging, burning or discomfort, especially during sex or when urinating.

Lichen sclerosus is a chronic, or ongoing, condition, and over time it can lead to scarring. If this affects the vulva, it may narrow the entrance to the vagina, interfering with sexual intercourse.

Women with severe lichen sclerosus in the genitals may not be able to have sex. The disease can cause scars that narrow the vagina. Also, sex can hurt and cause the patches to bleed. However, treatment with creams or ointments can help. Women with severe scarring in the vagina may need surgery, but only after lichen sclerosus is controlled with medication. When the skin around the anus is affected, pain when emptying the bowels can lead to constipation.

What Causes Lichen Sclerosus?

Doctors don’t know the exact cause of lichen sclerosus. Some doctors think a too active immune system and hormone problems may play a role. In women, lichen sclerosus also seems to be associated with autoimmune diseases (conditions where the immune system attacks the body), such as lupus , alopecia and thyroid disease. It is also thought that people inherit the likelihood of getting the disease. There may also be a hormonal involvement as It is also more common after menopause, when there is less oestrogen in the body.

Lichen sclerosus is more likely to appear on skin that has been damaged or scarred from some other previous injury. Importantly, lichen sclerosus is not infectious and your partner cannot catch it during sex.

How Is It Diagnosed?

Lichen sclerosus can often be diagnosed from the appearance of the affected skin. It is important that your GP refer you to a pelvic floor/urodynamic specialist, reproductive medicine specialist or women’s healthy specialist that specialises in conditions affecting the female reproductive organs. Sometimes a referral to a dermatologist may also be needed also.

Besides visual diagnosis, a biopsy may be recommended to confirm the diagnosis. This involves taking a small sample of affected tissue for a pathologist to examine under a microscope. This allows specialists to make sure that it is not a different disease.

Treatment of lichen sclerosus

Treatment of lichen sclerosus is aimed at:

  • Relieving symptoms of itch and discomfort;
  • Healing the lesions (returning the affected skin to its normal colour and texture);
  • Preventing the development of scar tissue; and
  • Treating any scar tissue that has developed.

Medical Treatments for Lichen Sclerosus

Lichen sclerosus is usually treated by applying a strong steriod cream, or ointment to the affected area. This is usually applied daily for several weeks, or months, and then less frequently (once or twice per week) long-term to prevent a recurrence.

Corticosteroid ointment or cream should be applied only to the white patches and gently rubbed in. Try to avoid applying steroid to the normal surrounding skin to help prevent side effects.

Symptoms such as itch may improve within a couple of days of starting corticosteroid treatment. Healing of lesions generally takes longer.

Women with Lichen Sclerosis will need regular follow up consultations and management with their specialist while using these creams and ointments for a long time because they can cause the following

  • Thinning and redness of the skin
  • Stretch marks where the cream is applied
  • Genital yeast infections.

Sometimes, women just do not get better using this medication and there could be other things that could be stopping symptoms from clearing up. This could be from the following:

  • Low estrogen levels
  • Infection
  • Allergy to the medication.

Other treatments

If topical steroid treatment is not effective, your specialist may recommend other medications and treatments that target the immune system and help control inflammation.

  • Sometimes other medications such as Retinoids, or vitamin A-like drugs are used and your specialist may also recommend laser treatment.
  • If scarring has occurred, this does not usually improve with steroid treatment. Scarring in females that is affecting sexual intercourse or urination may be helped by surgery
  • There are also some new medical treatments that are presently being researched and providing some amazing results options and I will discuss at a later date. They are actually natural medicines that are being used as a medical treatments. All I can say is that I have seen the results of this new treatment option and I think it is going to help many people. At present on of my colleagues, Dr Philip Hall, is using this treatment to help women as part of a research project. I will update people when I am allowed to say more about this new treatment.

Natural Medicine Treatments

  • There are natural medicine treatments that have been shown to help Lichen Sclerosus
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Acupuncture
  • Homeopathy
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Nutritional Supplements
  • Diet and nutritional changes ( to help reduce inflammation)
  • Counselling ( to help with dealing with the long term affects of dealing with this disease)

Self-care measures for genital lichen sclerosus

The following self-care measures may help in the treatment of lichen sclerosus that affects the genital area.

  • Gently wash the area daily with warm water and pH neutral soap cleanser.
  • Try not to rub or scratch the area. This can sometimes be really hard when it is itchy and inflamed
  • Avoid tight clothing and any activities that may aggravate itching and discomfort, such as bike riding.
  • Your specialist may recommend you apply cream to gently moisturise and protect the area.
  • Women should use a mirror to become familiar with the location and appearance of their genital lesions, and to apply cream or ointment to the affected area of the vulva.

Complications and follow-up

If you have been diagnosed with lichen sclerosus then it is advisable to have regular follow-up appointments with your specialist every 6 to 12 months. In addition, genital lichen sclerosus is associated with a small, but important, increase in the risk of cancer developing at the affected site. Frequent check-ups are important to detect any cancers early on, when they can be more easily treated.

I have treated many women with Lichen Sclerosus in my years in practice and I do find that a multimodality approach is the best way to treat and manage this disease effectively. Sometimes you need to have a team to help treat this, just like many other diseases women endure.So many women are are at their wits end with this disease and all sorts of treatments that have not worked. I can say this if this disease is treated and manage properly, it can give women their quality of life back.

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

Women’s & Men’s Health Crusader

-“No Stone Left Unturned”

 

 

 

 

Hysterectomy “DOES NOT” Cure Endometriosis

After my recent post about the misinformation people get told, I thought I would start with one of the biggest pieces of misinformation and one of the biggest lies in healthcare, women with endometriosis are told.

Many women are led to believe that hysterectomy is a cure for endometriosis and this is probably one of the most non-factual statements that many healthcare professionals are guilty of telling women. This is because they lack the understanding of the disease and lack knowledge of how the disease can spread to other areas of the body outside the uterus.

For the record, and this is fact, Hysterectomy DOES NOT cure, never has cured, and never will be a cure for endometriosis.

Most endometriosis is found outside the uterus and can be found in the pouch of douglas, utero-sacral ligaments, ovaries, intestine, pelvic wall, bladder and it can even spread up into the diaphragm, thoracic cavity, liver, pericardium, rectum and other parts of the body. It has even been found in the brain and distal joints such as the fingers.

All women with endometriosis need to know that endometriosis will still stay in the places mentioned above, irrespective if the uterus is removed, or not.

Many women will often comment that hysterectomy has cured their endometriosis and this is because they have been led to believe what their doctor has told them, they lack the understanding of the disease and they may have had some relief of pain usually associated with their menstrual cycle.

All hysterectomy will do for a woman with endometriosis is stop their menstrual cycle and any associated symptoms and pain associated with her menstrual cycle. Some women are also just lucky to become asymptomatic after hysterectomy too.

The type of hysterectomy may also help to slow the progression of the disease too. What many people do not understand it they there are two types of hysterectomy. One is a full hysterectomy, where the uterus and ovaries are removed and the other is a partial hysterectomy, where only the uterus is removed and the ovaries are left behind. It may be possible that a full hysterectomy, where the ovaries are removed, may in fact reduce some of the estrogen that is driving the disease and make someone asymptomatic.

The other gynaecological issue that many healthcare practitioners misdiagnose and overlook is Adenomyosis. Adenomyosis is an inflammatory disease deep within the wall, muscle and tissues of the uterus. Many now believe that Adenomyosis and endometriosis are one in the same disease, except Adenomyosis is deep within the muscles and tissues, where as endometriosis tends to be more superficial.

Removal of the uterus will in fact help Adenomyosis and help with the associated symptoms, such as heavy bleeding and pain. Many women actually have Endometriosis and Adenomyosis at the same time and many do not even know they have both diseases. Then when the uterus is removed, women experience less pain and symptoms, or no pain and symptoms, that was actually caused by the Adenomyosis rather than the endometriosis. Then these women are led to believe that they have been cured of endometriosis due to the resulting levels of pain and symptoms that are now gone. But, while their Adenomyosis may be cured (and I use this term loosely due to context), their endometriosis still remains. But if they are now asymptomatic, which many women are, they many not know that the endometriosis is actually still there. If you are one of these people I do need you to know that the hysterectomy has not cured your endometriosis at all and it is still there in your body. If a hysterectomy has cured your pain and associated symptoms is because of everything I have mentioned above. Again, hysterectomy DOES NOT cure endometriosis.

I also see the opposite of this in practice too. Many women whom have had a hysterectomy are still getting lots of abdominal pain, intestinal pain, bladder pain, rectal pain and others pains in the body. It is often hard for them to hear that their pain they are experiencing is actually from endometriosis, which they have been previously diagnosed with, yet believe has been cured due to the removal of the uterus and sometimes ovaries are well (partial, or full hysterectomy). The only way that many will actually fully believe you is after they have had further surgery and the disease is found and excised and their symptoms are stopped, or reduced. It is not until then, that these women will know what you have said to be true and that they have been sold the biggest lie on the planet.

The reason I wanted to speak about this is because I see so many women believing that hysterectomy (partial or full) will cure their endometriosis and have been sold the lie. Unfortunately many of these women are still suffering greatly and are often left wondering why, or are told it can’t be endometriosis as the uterus has been removed. It is so terrible to hear this and see this statement being spread as gospel by healthcare practitioners and even surgeons who know no better and do not understand endometriosis as a disease state. It is also hard to hear other women tell their fellow sisters the same lie, even though it is not really their fault and they actually do not know any better. I am writing this so the truth is out there and we get to stop this misinformation from spreading any further.

I hope this has helped you with getting some of the facts and see why so many women are told the one of the biggest lies in healthcare.

Oh and remember one more thing….  Period Pain IS NOT Normal, no matter what anyone tells you!

 

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

(Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist)

Women’s and Men’s Health Crusader

-“The International Baby Maker”

-“No Stone Left Unturned”