More and more healthcare professionals are becoming aware of endometriosis and pelvic pain as a condition, but more than likely you will need to take your care into your own hands to obtain the best care you need. Your pain is most certainly, real and you deserve someone who believes and understands you. In fact, you deserve all the help you can get! So, what can you do to be in charge of your medical treatment?
Ideally you would be surrounded by a team of healthcare professionals that work collaboratively with each other to ensure you get the best care possible.
General Practitioner – A GP (also a ‘generalist’) is a trained doctor that provides primary healthcare for routine cases and will refer to specialists when specific types of treatments are required. Your GP will authorize and manage your care plan and will ideally be in contact with all other specialists you are working with.
Practice nurse – Most general practices will have a practice nurse who will be your relay point and can assist you with navigating your care plan.
Dietician – Visiting a dietician will be beneficial if you experience bowel issues like bloating. A registered dietician is an expert in food and nutrition and will be able to provide you with advice and can assist you with prevention and treatment of your bowel problems.
Physiotherapist – particularly useful for when you experience stabbing pains in your pelvic area. A Physiotherapist can help establish whether you have any pelvic muscle related issues or tightness and can work with you to relieve this.
Gynecologist – A gynecologist is trained in treating medical conditions that affect your reproductive organs. Ideally you would find/ be referred to a gynecologist with vast experience in endometriosis and laparoscopic surgery, so some research on your end may be required. A gynecologist would perform your surgery should you require one.
Exercise physiologist – Your health problems may have caused severe physical weakness; when your body is ‘de-conditioned’ is will be worth visiting an exercise physiologist to help you get fit(ter).
Urologist – When you experience bladder problems, you may need to visit a urologist that can treat and help you with urinary tract issues. Urologist are also trained to perform certain types of procedures or surgeries.
Pain specialist – Visiting a pain specialist may be useful when the pain treatments you have tried, haven’t brought you any relief. A pain specialist is trained in evaluating, diagnosing and treating a variety of pains and will work with you to find a strategy to manage your pain.
Vulval specialist – Sometimes women with endometriosis and/or pelvic pain experience vulval pain or vulval skin conditions. In that case, it is best to see a vulval specialist to receive the right treatment.
Community Pharmacy – Community pharmacists provide/sell drugs in accordance with your prescriptions, as well as drug information and professional guidance on dispensing of drugs. They also maintain links with other health professionals in primary healthcare. To optimize the care from your pharmacy, it is best to find a pharmacist you are comfortable with and to stick with one.
Don’t be afraid to tell your GP what you need and help him/her with research and obtaining information.
Recognize you may need a lot of time with your GP, it is best to book a double appointment and be flexible if multiple visits are required.
Accept you may need to go through a trial & error approach, not one size fits all and you will need to find out what works best for you.
Find out whether you are eligible for any healthcare plans and talk to your GP about it. Many GP’s don’t think of endometriosis as a chronic condition, but when pain is constant for 3-6 months, you can consider this a ‘chronic pain’. In Australia, this make you eligible for some funding for up to 5 allied health visits under the ‘GP Medical Plan’. In Australia, you are also eligible for 10 allied health visits under the ‘Mental Healthcare Plan’ if you experience anxiety or depression. Healthcare systems works differently in each part of the world, so find out whether the healthcare in your country has a similar scheme in place.
Don’t Google your symptoms as Dr Google can be inaccurate and is not aware of your personal circumstances. (If you must Google and can’t resist, https://www.mayoclinic.org/ is a good resource)
Research the health professionals available to you, read my blog on How to Find the Right Specialist for You for help.
Illustrations by: Remi Uijting