What is endometriosis?
It’s a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus develops in other places, such as on the bladder, bowel and ovaries.
Scar tissue and adhesions can form and in severe cases; this causes organs to stick together.
Who is affected?
The condition affects an estimated 1.5 million women in the UK, usually between 18 and 55 years of age.
Many cases remain undiagnosed. Recent studies showed that 51,000 women in the UK were admitted to hospital in 2016 / 17, so early diagnosis is vital to avoid long-term complications.
Endometriosis may start in women as they enter puberty, so any abnormal symptoms should be discussed with an expert healthcare professional, as soon as possible.
What are the symptoms?
During menstruation the tissue that has built up on the bladder, ovaries, etc also thickens, then breaks down and bleeds. The blood is unable to escape and the accumulation causes pain.
Symptoms include heavy periods, pelvic pain, pain during sex, infertility and painful bowel movements and urination – especially during a period.
It can also cause symptoms similar to food allergies as foods containing estrogen exacerbate the condition.
If the condition is not treated, it may lead to difficulty conceiving or even infertility.
What are the possible treatments?
Endometriosis cannot be cured, but can be managed.
Ultrasound scans may detect the condition, but the main investigative procedure is a laparoscopy – this is a surgical procedure in which a fibre-optic instrument is inserted through the abdominal wall to view the organs in the abdomen. The specialist can then determine what the best course of treatment will be.
Treatment options include:
- Painkillers may be used to make the symptoms more tolerable in the short-term.
- The contraceptive pill or coil may be advised to manage acute symptoms
- Treatment may also involve temporarily putting the ’ovaries to sleep’ with the intention to stop the production of estrogen.
- Surgery may be advised, for example a hysterectomy and ovarian removal may be considered