Most of us experience some level of discomfort during our periods, but for some women painful periods may actually turn out to be symptoms of something else.
Endometriosis is a gynaecological condition where tissue that behaves like the lining of the womb is found outside the womb, most commonly in the pelvic region. It’s also fairly common, affecting 1 in 10 women in the UK.
What are the most common symptoms?
While endometriosis is the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK, many women don’t seek help as they think what they’re going through is ‘normal’.
Symptoms of endometriosis include:
- painful periods
- long, heavy and irregular periods
- pain in the lower abdomen, pelvis or lower back
- pain during and after sex
- bleeding between periods
- pain in the bladder
- painful bowel movements
- difficulty getting pregnant
- extreme fatigue
If you suffer regularly from these symptoms, it’s definitely worth making an appointment with your GP.
How is it diagnosed?
If your GP believes you have the condition, you will be referred to a gynaecologist who will perform an ultrasound or possibly a laparoscopy, a small op where a small sample of tissue can be taken for testing.
However, a recent survey by the charity Endometriosis UK revealed that almost 50% of women saw their GP more than 5 times before being referred to a specialist, and that it takes on average 7.5 years to get a formal diagnosis of endometriosis by laparoscopy.
Endometriosis UK wants to support GPs, helping them understand the signs of endometriosis so they can diagnose it quicker. If you do see your GP and get nowhere, push and push until you get that referral.
How to cope with endometriosis
Unfortunately, there is no cure for endometriosis, but the condition can be managed, as long as it’s diagnosed early. The aim of any treatment prescribed is to ease symptoms so that it doesn’t interfere with daily life. Treatments, which include pain-relief medication, hormone treatments and surgery, help relieve pain, slow the growth of the tissue and hopefully, in the long run, improve fertility.