WHAT IS ENDOMETRIOSIS?
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the inner lining of the womb (endometrium) is found elsewhere, usually in the pelvis around the womb, ovaries and fallopian tubes. It is a very common condition, affecting around 1 in 10 women. You are more likely to develop endometriosis if your mother or sister has had it. Endometriosis usually affects women during their reproductive years. It can be a long-term condition that can have a significant impact on your general physical health, emotional wellbeing and daily routine.
WHAT CAUSES ENDOMETRIOSIS?
The exact cause of endometriosis is not known but it is hormone dependent. This means that, just like the endometrium which responds to hormonal changes resulting in a period, the endometrial-like tissue located outside the womb also bleeds. This bleeding can cause pain, inflammation and scarring, and can possibly damage your pelvic organs.
On the ovaries, where it can form cysts (often referred to as endometriomas or ‘chocolate cysts’)
- In the peritoneum (the lining of the pelvis and abdomen)
- In or on the fallopian tubes
- On, behind or around the womb
- In the area between the vagina and the rectum
Endometriosis can also occur within the muscle wall of the womb (adenomyosis) and occasionally on the bowel and/or bladder. It may sometimes be found in other parts of the body,
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
- Pelvic pain and painful, sometimes irregular or heavy periods.
- Pain during or after sex and can lead to fertility problems.
- Pain related to your bowels, bladder, lower back or the tops of your legs
- Long-term fatigue.
Some women with endometriosis do not have any symptoms. Endometriosis can cause pain that occurs in a regular pattern, becoming worse before and during your period. Some women experience pain all the time but for others it may come and go. The pain may get better during pregnancy and sometimes it may disappear.
HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?
Endometriosis can be a difficult condition to diagnose. This is because
- The symptoms of endometriosis vary so much
- The symptoms are common and can be similar to pain caused by other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
WHAT TESTS MIGHT I BE OFFERED?
Tests usually include an MRI scan or a pelvic ultrasound scan. This may be a transvaginal scan to check the uterus and ovaries. You may be offered a laparoscopy, which is the only way to get a definite diagnosis. This is carried out under a general anaesthetic.
You may have a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis and images may be taken for your medical
WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS FOR TREATMENT?
There are several different medications to help relieve your pain. These can range from over-the-counter remedies to prescribed medications from your healthcare professional. In more severe situations, you may be referred to a specialist pain management team.
These treatments reduce or stop ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovary) and therefore allow the endometriosis to shrink by decreasing hormonal stimulation.
Surgery can treat or remove areas of endometriosis. The surgery recommended will depend on where the endometriosis is and how extensive it is.