Endometriosis Awareness Week: What is endometriosis?

07 March 2017

Endometriosis is a condition where cells that usually line the womb (endometrium) can be found elsewhere, usually within the pelvis. It is a relatively common condition, affecting up to 15% of women in their reproductive years. Women with endometriosis will often have pain, usually around the time of their menstrual period, although it can often occur at other times.  

Endometriosis can sometimes be a difficult condition to diagnose as the symptoms can vary considerably, often indicating a patient may have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or a urinary infection.

Initial investigations such as blood tests and ultrasound scans usually show no sign of irregularities, so the only definitive way to diagnose the condition is by a laparoscopy (a camera is inserted into the abdomen under a general anaesthetic). It is best to have this done by a gynaecologist who specialises in this area and can remove the endometriosis during the procedure- this will often help ease the symptoms.

Hormonal treatment is also commonly used as endometriosis will usually become dormant when taking hormones like those found in contraceptive pills. Unfortunately we do not know what causes endometriosis or why some women develop the condition - so the treatments currently available will not cure it but do help with symptoms. 

Endometriosis can also have an effect on fertility. For women experiencing symptoms while trying to conceive it is important to seek advice from a specialist as surgical treatment with a laparoscopy may help improve their fertility.

Mr Christopher Guyer is a 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.

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