Endometriosis affects about 10-15% of women in the UK*. Unfortunately there can be a long delay in reaching the diagnosis. Painful periods, bloating and pain during intercourse are characteristic symptoms and some women have associated fertility problems. Occasionally women have no symptoms.
Laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery is required to make the diagnosis and sometimes to treat the condition
The condition arises when lining tissue from the womb is present outside the womb in the abdominal cavity - this can lead to scar tissue and even the formation of fluid-filled ovarian cysts (sometimes called 'chocolate cysts'). It is not clear how this happens, but many of the symptoms can be controlled. Hormone medication, anti-inflammatory tablets and other painkillers are often needed, but studies have shown that exercise and diet (for example increasing the intake of essential fish oils) can be extremely beneficial.
Laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery is required to make the diagnosis and sometimes to treat the condition. Scar tissue can be removed and ovarian cysts excised to help ensure that the ovaries are conserved. This surgery can be very complicated depending on the extent of the endometriosis, but specialist centres are often successful in treating symptoms and improving fertility.
In the longer term, symptoms of endometriosis can improve without intervention, and this may in part be due to the natural decline in hormone levels. In some women, however, the inflammation in the womb can escalate leading to more pain (a condition known as adenomyosis). This often responds well to the use of a hormone releasing intrauterine system (a coil) but in some patients may eventually lead to the need for a hysterectomy.
(*Source: RCOG website – www.rcog.org.uk)