My knowledge of endometriosis is extremely limited. I know of a friend that suffers with it who, for the most part, is in constant agony with it. But outside of that I know very little. Yet its apparently really quite common for women in the 30s and 40s and can affect all women of all age.
To better understand this complex and often oversighted condition, we spoke to Caroline Overton, Consult Gynaecologist and Spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Endometriosis is very common
“Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the inner lining of the womb is found elsewhere, usually in the pelvis around the womb, ovaries and fallopian tubes. It may be surprising to discover just how common endometriosis is – it affects one in 10 women in the UK and 10% of women globally.”
Diagnosis can be slow
“On average it takes 7.5 years from the onset of symptoms for women to get a diagnosis of endometriosis. This is in part due to the fact that symptoms are very similar to other common conditions and lack of awareness among women and healthcare professionals. New clinical guidelines for healthcare professionals have been published that will hopefully lead to faster diagnosis for women.
“It’s important for women to be aware of their menstrual cycle, keeping a written track of dates, heaviness of flow and pain so that they can share this information with their doctor. Endometriosis UK have a pain and symptom diary which could also help to lead to a faster and more accurate diagnosis.”
It can cause fertility issues but not always
“Endometriosis can cause fertility problems but it does not always and many women will be able to get pregnant without treatment. It is not yet fully understood why endometriosis can impact fertility but it is believed to be due to damage to the fallopian tubes or ovaries. Hormone treatment will not improve fertility and depending on the woman’s age, the severity of the condition and how long they have been trying, some women may be advised to try fertility treatments like in vitro fertilisation (IVF).”
Pregnancy does not cure endometriosis
“It is a myth that pregnancy is a cure for endometriosis. Pregnancy and breast feeding can temporarily ease symptoms but these will usually return. Some women with endometriosis might experience more pain in the first few months of pregnancy but it is not currently known how often this happens or the reasons behind it.”
Endometriosis is not just painful periods
“There are a number of symptoms of endometriosis, not just painful periods. Symptoms have often started as a teenager and women may not have recognized the symptoms as abnormal.
Normal healthy periods do not interfere with everyday life or work. You should be able to manage a normal period with a tampon or a pad. It might be normal to take painkillers to manage the pain, but you shouldn’t need to regularly take time off work or school.
“So, if you are having to change the way you dress, miss work or social activities, have a “bed day”, stop exercising and are planning your life around your periods, then your periods are not normal.
Women with endometriosis may also experience pain during or after sex, pain going to the toilet, abnormal bleeding, chronic pelvic pain and fatigue. Women have also reported leg and back pain. The physical symptoms can lead to depression and anxiety.”
You can’t prevent endometriosis – but there are ways to manage the symptoms
“The cause of endometriosis is currently not known and there are no ways that it can be prevented. You can’t catch endometriosis. There are various ways to help manage the symptoms and these should be discussed fully with a healthcare professional. Treatment is based on your symptoms and life priorities whether it be the relief of pain, having a baby or a combination. Your healthcare professional will also take in to account your age, severity of the endometriosis, previous treatment and any side effects. Options for management include hormone treatment, pain management, improved diet, exercise, surgery, and complementary therapies.”
We’d like to thank Caroline Overton and the team at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Genealogists for sharing these 6 facts with us. Help us to raise awareness about endometriosis by sharing this article with your friends and family. Is this something you or someone you know suffers with? We’d love to hear from you, share your stories below or email us: firstname.lastname@example.org