Endometriosis is a common cause of pelvic pain affecting around 2 million women in the UK, most of whom are between the ages of 25 and 40. It is a chronic (long term) condition where small pieces of the womb lining are found outside the womb typically in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, bowel, vagina or rectum. Endometriosis may also lead to a lack of energy and depression.
The symptoms of endometriosis can vary and some women have few symptoms or no symptoms at all. The most common symptoms are:-
- Painful and/or heavy periods
- Bleeding in between the periods
- Pain in the lower abdomen, pelvis or lower back
- Pain with intercourse (dyspareunia)
- Difficulty in becoming pregnant
Endometriosis may be suspected based on the symptoms experienced. A physical examaination and an ultrasound scan may also suggest the presence of endometriosis. However, a laparoscopy is the most common procedure performed to diagnosis & treat endometriosis.
There is currently no cure for endometriosis however there are treatments that can help with the pain that endometriosis can cause and also improve fertility.
Over the counter medication such as Ibuprofen is often used to treat endometriosis as in addition to easing the pain it will help reduce inflammation which can improve symptoms. Paracetamol may also help if the pain is fairly mild and stronger ‘prescription only’ medications can also be prescribed.
As oestrogen encourages endometriosis to grow, the aim of hormone treatments is to reduce or stop the body producing oestrogen so as to reduce the amount of endometriosis tissue and the symptoms it can cause. There are a number of different treatment options available.
Laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery is the most common procedure used to diagnose and treat endometriosis to improve symptoms and fertility. Depending on the severity of symptoms of endometriosis a laparotomy or hysterectomy may also be considered.