03 March 2018
According to the charity Endometriosis UK one in ten women will suffer from endometriosis.
Yet, despite it being a relatively common condition, it can take an average of 7.5 years between a woman first seeing a doctor about their symptoms and finally receiving a positive diagnosis*.
Now, as part of Endometriosis Awareness Week - which runs from 3 to 10 March - the charity is hoping to highlight the illness and make both GPs and patients more aware of the symptoms.
Dr Asok Banerjee at Spire Leicester Hospital, explained: “Early diagnosis is important because, in many women, the disease will progress and cause increasingly severe problems in terms of both pain and impaired fertility.
“Recently there has been recognition of the need for dedicated surgeons who have a particular interest and expertise in endometriosis but it is still important that both patients and GPs are made very aware about the symptoms and what they should be looking for.
“Events like Awareness Week can help raise the profile and take away the mystery surrounding the condition and its treatments.”
Mainly affecting girls and women of childbearing age endometriosis is a common condition where tissue that behaves like the lining of the womb (endometrium) is found in other parts of the body. It can appear in many different places, including the ovaries, fallopian tubes, inside the tummy, and in or around the bladder or bowel.
“Some women will have a mild form of the condition, whilst others will experience extreme pain often related to their period. However it can also occur on a daily basis, when they have sexual intercourse, go to the toilet, either to open their bowels or urinate. Some of these patients will also have difficulty becoming pregnant,” said Dr Banerjee.
He added: “The severity of symptoms can depend on where the abnormal endometrial tissue is rather than how much you have. A small amount in one place could be more painful than a larger amount somewhere else in the body.”
Besides experiencing difficulty in getting pregnant, other common symptoms are very painful abdominal cramps or back pain during menstruation; painful bowel movements; pain when urinating - especially during periods; bleeding between periods; painful sex and general tiredness.
But, says Dr Banerjee, surgical treatments are improving. “In a large proportion of patients who have a complete excision of the endometriosis there is minimal recurrence of the disease. If, as happens in some cases, there is a recurrence then we can usually carry out another excision operation.”
*The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)