This March we are raising awareness about endometriosis, a painful condition that affects around 10% of women and around 176 million people worldwide 1. Endometriosis can significantly affect the daily lives of sufferers causing them pain, bleeding and bowel problems. Despite being the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK, it takes on average around 7.5 years for endometriosis to be diagnosed. This is why it’s so important to be aware of endometriosis and the problems it can cause. Remember, if you have any concerns about your health always consult a doctor or visit your local health centre.
Endometriosis is a complex condition caused by the presence of womb-like tissue in irregular areas of the body. Each month, during the menstrual cycle, these layers of cells (endometrium) follow the same cycle of build-up and breakdown as the inner-lining of the womb. This bleeding, unlike a period, has no way of leaving the body and as a result can cause inflammation, painful urination and scarring.
The formation of scar tissue can cause organs to stick together or disrupt normal anatomy. If the position of the pelvis or reproductive organs changes when this happens it can result in pregnancy and fertility problems. The condition can affect women at any point between the beginning of puberty and the menopause; after which the condition normally improves.
Endometrial tissue can be found throughout the body and, for this reason, the symptoms of endometriosis and their severity vary significantly from person to person. While some women will experience no symptoms whatsoever, sufferers normally experience painful periods or painful sex, period problems and infertility. Symptoms can be complex and if you are concerned that you may have endometriosis or if you have been diagnosed with it and experience a change in your health you should always speak to a doctor.
What causes endometrial tissue growth outside the womb in people with endometriosis is currently unknown, however research has revealed that genetics, the immune system and environmental factors all play a role. All existing theories fail to fully explain the condition’s development and symptoms.
Endometriosis can be confusing and as a result women can often misunderstand the condition and its effect on their health.
Myth Busting Checklist:
- Endometriosis is not a cancer
- Endometriosis is not an infection
- Endometriosis is not contagious.
Currently, the definitive way to diagnose endometriosis is via a laparoscopy, an operation during which a small camera is inserted into the pelvis. The images recorded by the device allow the doctor to see the pelvic organs and any endometrial tissue or cysts.
While endometriosis cannot be cured, there are several treatments that can help manage symptoms such as pain. The treatments your doctor chooses will depend on a number of factors including age, condition severity, future plans to have children and personal preference. Treatments should be chosen through discussion with your doctor, who will take into account all risks and possible side-effects when making a decision. Common types of treatment include surgery, hormone therapy, pain management and emotional support. Many women also use complementary therapies for relief. Endometriosis affects different women in different ways and therefore treatment options that work for others may not be right for you.
Remember if you or someone you know is concerned about the symptoms of endometriosis, worried about painful, irregular periods or simply want to talk about infertility problems visit a doctor, nurse or health centre.
The charity Endometriosis UK have information on the symptoms, diagnosis, living with the condition, treatment and advice for people living in the UK.
Endometriosis Awareness Week begins on the 3rd of March 2018.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended for informational purposes only. The information provided herein are gathered from various sources and Your.MD does not take any responsibility for its accuracy. Never disregard, avoid, or delay in obtaining medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional because of information or advice you received via our blog.
1 — Rogers, P.A., D’Hooghe, T.M., Fazleabas, A., Gargett, C.E., Giudice, L.C., Montgomery, G.W., Rombauts, L., Salamonsen, L.A. and Zondervan, K.T., 2009. Priorities for endometriosis research: recommendations from an international consensus workshop. Reproductive Sciences, 16(4), pp.335–346.