5 Things Every Woman Should Know About Endometriosis
Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women in the UK. It is such a common condition but many women are not aware of the symptoms or when to seek help from a doctor.
It’s more than period pain.
The most well known symptom is painful periods. But the pain can actually begin before any period bleeding starts. any women who feels like their periods are more painful than they expect should see their doctor. It is a serious condition and can have a big impact on women’s lives it may affect their ability to start a family or mean they find it hard to work or have a social life so the sooner it is diagnosed and managed the better. Currently on average it takes over 7 years before a woman is diagnosed, hopefully the more women are aware this will help to reduce this time.
It’s different for every woman.
Each woman’s experience is very individual. It depends on where there disease is. The symptoms come from cells which are the same as those lining the womb growing in other parts of the body such as the ovary and bowel. This means that sometimes the pain can be triggered by opening bowels or passing urine. Other symptoms can include back pain, groin pain and fatigue.
Scans might be normal.
Many women with possible symptoms will initially be referred for basic checks such as blood tests and an ultrasound scan. It is quite common for ultrasound scan to not show any abnormality of the womb or ovaries. This can be frustrating for women but it does not mean they don’t have the condition. The only way to tell for sure is to have a laparoscopy (a type of keyhole surgery when a camera is used to look inside the abdomen).
You might not need medication.
The treatment will very much depend on what the woman wishes and her goals. So for instance someone who is struggling with fertility issues is more likely to be recommended surgery. Whereas a woman who is struggling with pain but needs contraception is more likely to benefit from hormone methods. There is also lots of scope to explore other options such as using exercise and diet to manage symptoms.
Hysterectomy is often not the answer.
Lena Dunham recently gave a very brave and frank account of her experience with endometriosis. This has been great in raising awareness for women. She describes how she had a hysterectomy (removal of the womb) to try and control her symptoms. This is thankfully only rarely necessary. In many women the pain comes from lesions around other organs such as the bowel or ovary so removing the womb would not relieve pain in these scenarios.
If you would like more information I can recommend the excellent Endometriosis UK website. It is a great source of info so women can feel empowered to talk to their doctor about their worries and treatment options.