What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a medical condition where tissue – similar to the lining of the uterus – grows in other places such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes and along the pelvis. Unlike the regular lining in the uterus that breaks down during menstruation, this tissue has nowhere to go and causes a range of complications. These can have a significant physical and mental impact on sufferers unless treated.

Endometriosis is a lifelong condition that can affect women of any age. Roughly 1.5 million women are affected1, making it the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK. Despite these facts, it is widely misunderstood by women and the journey to diagnosis can be long and painful.

Facts and figures

  • • 1 in 10 women in the UK have endometriosis
  • • Around 30-50% of infertile woman have endometriosis
  • • 10% of the world’s population have it
  • • It takes on average 7.5 years for it to be diagnosed

Potential causes

While the definite cause of endometriosis is still unknown, medical research points to some possible causes. A study by the Mayo Clinic suggests that during menstruation, endometrial cells within blood can flow back into the fallopian tube, causing new tissue lining to grow.2

Another study suggests that it could be due to immune system’s failure to detect and destroy endometrial tissue outside of the uterus.3

Symptoms

There is no defined set of symptoms in endometriosis sufferers, which is one reason why many cases are left undiagnosed for many years. However, the main ones to look out for are:

• Pain in your lower abdomen of back that worsens during your period
• Debilitating period pain
• Pain during or after sex
• Experiencing nausea, diarrhea or bleeding during your period
• Difficulty in getting pregnant
• Infertility

Risk factors

The greatest risk posed to women with endometriosis is impaired fertility. It’s thought that up to 50% of women with this condition have trouble getting pregnant3. This may be because excess tissue blocks the fallopian tube, preventing eggs from being fertilized. However, endometriosis has also been linked with sperm and egg damage.

Endometriosis sufferers also have a higher rate of developing ovarian cancer. While the chances are low, it is still a risk and another reason not to hesitate in receiving a diagnosis.

Types of diagnosis

If you consistently experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is advised to seek diagnosis. Endometriosis is a difficult condition to manage, so catching it early can help you in the long term. The main routes are:

Pelvic exam – Where your doctor manually searches for pelvic abnormalities such as cysts. This is an invasive process that has many limitations.

Ultrasound – Using sound waves and a transducer to get a view of your reproductive organs. Again, this can be invasive and unreliable.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – Using a magnetic field and radio waves to view reproductive organs in a more detailed way.

Laparoscopy – A surgical procedure requiring general anaesthetic, where the surgeon looks for endometriosis tissue outside the uterus.

Non-invasive endometriosis test – The latest and fastest route to accurate diagnosis of endometriosis. A single blood sample from the patient is used to screen for the condition.

Testing for endometriosis

We understand that endometriosis diagnosis is often not the quickest journey and you may want to start the process as quick as possible.
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