There’s a lot more to this condition than just painful periods…
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a painful condition where tissue similar to the lining of your womb starts to misbehave and grow in places it shouldn’t – like the fallopian tubes and ovaries. This can cause extremely heavy, painful periods and pain during or after sex. Endometriosis can have a huge impact on day-to-day life. It can affect a person’s social and work life, making many sufferers feel isolated and even depressed.
What Are The Symptoms Of Endometriosis?
Endometriosis can range from mild to severe. Some women barely notice the symptoms, while others are badly affected. The symptoms include:
Very heavy and painful periods that prevent you from going about your everyday life. You may bleed through your clothes or you may have to use both towels and tampons to prevent leaks.
- Pain in the lower tummy or back which usually worsens during your period.
- Pain when going to the toilet.
- Pain during or after sex.
- Difficulty with getting pregnant.
- Feeling sick, constipation, diarrhoea, or blood in your pee during your period.
What Causes Endometriosis?
The causes are still unknown. Medical boffins have a few theories about the causes of endometriosis and they include:
- Problems with the immune system.
- Genetics – if someone in your family suffers from the condition then you are more likely to develop it. There’s also a theory that certain ethnic groups are more likely to be affected than others.
- Retrograde menstruation – this is when the lining of the womb takes a wrong turn and flows up the fallopian tubes where it embeds itself on the organs in your pelvis, instead of leaving your body as a regular period.
- Endometrium cells behaving badly and spreading through the body via your bloodstream or lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system is the network of tubes and glands that form part of your immune system.
Can You Cure Endometriosis?
Sadly, no. There is no cure for the condition.
Can You Treat Endometriosis?
There are treatments available to ease the symptoms and to help women live a better life. Treatments include:
- Painkillers – ibuprofen and paracetamol, for example.
- Hormone medicines and contraceptives – such as the combined pill or contraceptive patch.
- Surgery – to cut away affected areas or to destroy endometriosis tissue.
I Think I Have Endometriosis
If the symptoms listed above are similar to what you’re experiencing, you should make an appointment with your doctor to be tested. Don’t suffer in silence – there’s lots of help out there for you.
Being diagnosed with the condition may take some time and your doctor may want to run several tests. The only definite way to diagnose the condition is to do a laparoscopy – an operation where a camera is inserted into the pelvis through a small cut made near your belly button so the surgeon can look inside for signs of endometriosis. A laparoscopy is done under general anaesthetic, meaning you’ll be asleep the whole time. Researchers are working on a special blood test which it is hoped would make diagnosing endometriosis easier, but it is not available yet.
Living With Endometriosis
Living with the condition can be very difficult. It affects your physical and emotional health and wellbeing. There’s a lot of support out there so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help – Endometriosis UK is a great resource and support network for women with the condition. They have a friendly online community where you can chat with other women who are affected by the condition, as well as a helpline and a helpful list of local support groups. Get more advice and support from Endometriosis UK here.
We also have a great article on smear tests anyone with a cervix should read.