06 March 2018
Q: I’ve always had really painful periods which I’ve heard is a sign of endometriosis. What other symptoms should I be looking out for?
A: Endometriosis is a relatively common condition affecting up to 15% of young women in their reproductive years. It is a cause of considerable suffering, severely affecting quality of life and can lead to regular absence from school, college and work. The condition occurs when cells that usually line the womb (endometrium) develop elsewhere in the body, usually within the pelvis.
Whilst pain with your period is the commonest symptom associated with endometriosis, you can have a variety of other symptoms with the disease. Your bowel and bladder are very close to the womb so some women have pain emptying their bowel or bladder with some associated frequency during the period. You may also experience diarrhoea and rarely, bleeding from the bowel so it is not uncommon for women to be investigated for bowel problems when they have endometriosis.
In addition to pain, you may bleed heavily with your periods and this can cause a mild anaemia which can make you tired and lethargic. Nausea and a reduction in your appetite are also symptoms that many women experience in association with their periods and these can also be attributed to other conditions, making diagnosis difficult.
It's a long-term condition that can have a significant impact on your life, but there are various treatments that can help which include:
- Symptomatic treatment – provided by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Medical (non-surgical) treatment, such as the Mirena coil and oral contraceptive pills
- Surgical treatment such as laparoscopic surgery to remove or destroy endometriosis
If you think you could have endometriosis, you should see your GP who will be able to refer you to a specialist for investigation.
Find out more about Mr Christopher Guyer, Consultant Gynaecologist practising at Spire Portsmouth Hospital.
The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional.