Endometriosis is one of the most common gynecological conditions that women face and is believed to affect around 176 million of us worldwide.
Despite its commonality, many people are still in the dark about it – even with celebrities like Alex Chung and Lena Dunham speaking out about their experience to help raise awareness.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a medical condition where the tissue that usually grows on the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
When a woman gets her period, these cells react in the same way to those inside the womb, breaking down and bleeding. However, unlike the cells that are shed through the vagina, this blood has no way to escape.
Endometriosis can affect anyone of a childbearing age, and left unchecked it can lead to issues with fertility.
What are the symptoms?
Endometriosis can be an incredibly debilitating condition, and one of the most common symptoms that women experience is period pain that stops you from doing your normal activities. However, symptoms can vary from woman to woman and some may be worse affected than others.
Other signs that you may have the condition could include pain in your lower tummy or back, pain during or after sex, feeling sick, constipation, and diarrhea.
Many women with endometriosis also report having heavier periods that require a higher-than-normal amount of tampons and pads, particularly in the first few days of menstruating.
Some women may also experience blood in their pee or difficulty getting pregnant.
How can I get a diagnosis?
Endometriosis can be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms can vary between women, but if you’re experiencing pain and other effects that are making day-to-day life difficult, it’s important to see your doctor.
It’s a good idea to write down your symptoms before seeing your doctor – that way they can get a better idea of their severity. Endometriosis UK has a helpful pain and symptoms diary on its website that you can use, here.
After examining you, your doctor may recommend treatments that will help with the symptoms. If the discomfort continues, they may then refer you to a gynecologist for some further tests. These could be an ultrasound scan or laparoscopy, where a surgeon passes a thin tube through a small incision in your stomach to monitor for any patches of endometriosis tissue. This is the only way to be certain you have endometriosis.
Currently, there is no “cure” for the condition, but many women manage the symptoms by using painkillers, hormonal contraceptives, or – in some instances – surgery to remove the endometriosis tissue.
How can I get additional support?
Speaking to women who have the same condition can be helpful and comforting. Many cities will have their own endometriosis support groups, interacting on Facebook, online, and even in person. A good place to start is with a quick Google or Facebook search.