Endometriosis - The Basics

Endometriosis. What is it?

This long-term condition can have a huge impact on women’s lives. It can affect women of any age and symptoms of it can vary – that’s what makes it so damn hard to diagnose! Some women can have stage 4 and not even feel it, whilst someone who has stage 1 is in excruciating pain daily. This devil of a condition is where some of your cells, similar to the ones found in your womb lining are found elsewhere in the body, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowel, bladder and some cells have even been found on the liver and lungs in rare cases. It’s important to note that these cells are not endometrium (lining of the uterus), it’s endometrial-like tissue. This tissue behaves like it would as if it was inside the womb – growing, thickening and shedding but it has nowhere to go. This can cause immense pain for the sufferer and can also cause scar tissue, making normal internal organs stick together.

Facts about Endo

· Endo affects 1 in 10 women worldwide

· That’s 176 million women worldwide

· If all of the women across the world who suffer from it came together – it would be the 8th largest country in the world

· Infertility can effect 30-50% of women who suffer

· Endometriosis is the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK

· Women that suffer with endometriosis in the UK costs the economy £8.2bn a year in treatment, loss of work and healthcare costs.

· Currently, it takes 7.5 years on average for a woman to receive an official diagnosis – this is too damn long!

· As it stands, the only way to officially diagnose is through a laparoscopy.

· There is no cure for Endometriosis, we can only hope that one does get found soon!

*Facts & figures from Endometriosis UK

Symptoms

Endo is a slippery little sucker! It is a bitch to diagnose and the path to trying to get a diagnosis can make you feel like you’re going crazy and cause a lot of stress – which obviously doesn’t help the condition either! To start with, I hear you and our community here at Inner Woman Wellness are here for you.

Some of the symptoms that women can experience are:

· Painful, heavy or irregular periods

· Pain during or after sex

· Infertility

· Chronic pelvic pain

· Period pain that stops you doing normal activities, the pain can make you feel nauseous

· Feeling sick

· Constipation, diarrhoea, or blood in your pee during period

· Painful bowel movements

· Fatigue

· Spotting between periods

· Back pain

· Leg pain

Endometriosis can mimic symptoms of other conditions, so please bear this in mind when reading this. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please seek medical advice to clarify the cause of symptoms.

Periods do hurt. They are a bitch and most women will experience stomach cramps when your period is coming and in full flow. It is important to remember that if your period pain is interfering with your everyday life to the point that you are unable to undertake normal activities and need time off of work/school, this is not normal and please do go and see your Doctor.

Causes of Endometriosis

The cause of endometriosis is not known. Several theories have been suggested, including:

  • Genetics – the condition tends to run in families, and affects people of certain ethnic groups more than others

  • Retrograde menstruation – when some of the womb lining flows up through the fallopian tubes and embeds itself on the organs of the pelvis, rather than leaving the body as a period

  • A problem with the immune system, the body's natural defence against illness and infection

  • Endometrium cells spreading through the body in the bloodstream or lymphatic system, a series of tubes and glands that form part of the immune system

But none of these theories fully explain why endometriosis happens. It's likely the condition is caused by a combination of different factors.

Treatment

There is no known treatment for endometriosis, just ways of alleviating symptoms, predominantly through hormone help to regulate the amount of estrogen your body produces, which we will be investigating in a further article. Some Doctors advise hysterectomies or getting pregnant – this does not mean that endometriosis will not come back and does not cure it.

A laparoscopy is the only way to receive a full diagnosis, this is where a surgeon passes a thin tube through a small cut in your tummy so they can see any patches of endometriosis tissue. There are types of laparoscopic surgeries, the most common ones are: Laser ablation or excision.

Laser ablation - Involves a laser (thin beam of light) to burn tissues. This is a very precise option and can minimise bleeding and damage to surrounding organs.

Excision surgery – This is where the areas of endometriosis is cut out either using lasers or scissors.

It’s best to discuss both options, along with some of the others, with your surgeon to find the best path for you. If you are showing signs that the endometriosis has spread further in your body, you may require major surgery. You will be advised by your surgeon if this is required. Further information on laparoscopic surgery is within our resources page.

Endometriosis and the havoc it can cause

We will be posting more in-depth articles on how Endometriosis can affect a woman’s health and life. Endometriosis is not just a physical condition. It can have such a negative impact on your mental wellbeing. It can cause strain on relationships and can feel very isolating, this is due to the fact that it’s a condition where you can’t physically see the pain - this makes it very hard for people to connect and sympathise with. You may experience discrimination and we want you to know that we are here for you and want to help you deal with this. If you are struggling with how this is affecting you, please reach out to us, to our community and we would love to help. You are not alone.

*Info taken from Endometriosis UK & official Endometriosis UK

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