What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a long term condition that affects approximately 1.5 million women in the UK, and 176 million women worldwide. It is a condition whereby the tissue that grows within the lining of your womb also grows within your pelvic cavity.
It can cause growths/lesions/endometrial tissue to form on your ovaries, bowel and fallopian tubes. Because this tissue acts as endometrial tissue, it thickens and breaks down and bleeds with each period. However, this tissue has no way to exit the body and becomes trapped. The surrounding tissue can then become irritated and develop scar tissue and adhesions (tissue that cause organs to stick together).
Endometriosis can occur from puberty all the way to menopause. Endometriosis can have a debilitating impact on a woman’s quality of life, personal relationships, professional relationships and mental health.
Stages of Endometriosis
Endometriosis has four stages: minimal, mild, moderate, and severe. Each stage refers to how much endometrial tissue is present and where the growths predominately are on the surface or in the organs.
Types of endometriosis
There are three types of endometriosis:
1. Superficial peritoneal lesion:
Lesions or growth on the lining of your pelvic cavity (the thin layer of tissue covering your abdominal organs).
Dark, fluid filled cysts deep in your ovaries that can damage healthy tissue.
3. Deeply infiltrating endometriosis:
Tissue growths deeper in your abdomen involving organs.
Common symptoms of endometriosis
Common symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Lower abdominal pain
- Period pain that stops you doing everyday life
- Pain during or after sex
- Painful bowel movements
- Pain when urinating
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Extreme fatigue
- Heavy periods (changing tampons and pads every 2-3 hours/bleeding through clothes)
- Irregular periods
- Lower Back pain
Awareness around endometriosis
There is an extreme lack of awareness in regards to endometriosis as it is often hard to diagnose and most women think it’s normal to be in so much pain during your period, it’s not.
There is no cure for endometriosis, however an early diagnosis can slow down its progress and help manage the symptoms. Research suggests that a diagnosis for endometriosis can take up to 7.5 years, this is because its presentation is very similar to other conditions such as Ovarian cysts, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and Interstitial Cystitis.
Tests for endometriosis
If endometriosis is suspected, then an ultrasound may be performed followed by a pelvic MRI. However, the only definitive way to diagnose endometriosis is by performing laparoscopy (a procedure whereby a camera is inserted into the abdomen to visualise the deposits of tissue in the pelvis).
Treatment for endometriosis
- Hormone medications
- Surgery to remove endometrial tissue
- Surgery to remove organs affected (Hysterectomy)
Things you can do to manage your symptoms at home
- Take regular analgesia (paracetamol and ibuprofen)
- Avoid fast food, processed foods, caffeine, red meat, and alcohol.
- Do pelvic friendly exercises (walks/bike rides)
Getting support for endometriosis
Where to go from here?
- Keep a pain and symptom diary of dates and times of your symptoms.
- Contact your GP for an appointment, or make an appointment with a consultant.
- Do not suffer in silence.
Support groups and resources that might be of use:
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