What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is the name given to the condition where cells like the ones in the lining of the womb (uterus) are found elsewhere in the body, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Each month these cells react in the same way to those in the womb, building up and then breaking down and bleeding. Unlike the cells in the womb that leave the body as a period, this blood has no way to escape.
Endometriosis is a chronic and debilitating condition that causes painful or heavy periods. It can affect all women of childbearing age, and it is estimated that 1 in 10 women in the UK suffer with this condition. This makes it the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK.
What causes endometriosis?
The cause of endometriosis is unknown. It is important to understand that it has not happened because of anything you have done, or have not done. There may be several factors that contributing to the development of endometriosis such as genetic, environmental and anatomical causes.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
Symptoms can vary between women, some are badly affected while others might not have any noticeable problems. The main symptoms include;
· Pain in your lower tummy or back which is usually worse during your period
· Period pain that stops you doing your normal activities
· Heavy periods
· Pain during or after sex
· Pain when peeing or pooing during your period
· Feeling nauseous, constipation, diarrhoea, or seeing blood in your urine during your period
· Difficulty getting pregnant.
How is endometriosis diagnosed and treated?
Diagnosing endometriosis can be difficult as the symptoms are very similar to other common gynaecological conditions. The only definitive way to diagnose endometriosis is by a laparoscopy. This is an operation in which a camera is inserted into the pelvis via a small cut near the naval. The surgeon can use the camera to see the pelvic organs and to look for any signs of endometriosis.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for endometriosis. However, there are a variety of treatments which aim to reduce the severity of symptoms and improve your quality of life. Treatment options include pain relief (over the counter painkillers), hormone treatments (as endometriosis responds and grows when exposed to the hormone oestrogen, a number of hormone treatments attempt to block of reduce the production of oestrogen in the body), and surgery. Keyhole surgery can be used to remove the endometrial tissue found elsewhere in the body, alternatively open surgery may be required to remove part or all of the organs affected by endometriosis (for example a hysterectomy).
This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.