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Spotting Endometriosis Symptoms Early

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, so in this week’s blog, we’ll be discussing this difficult condition that affects 1 in 10 women of reproductive age in the UK. Read on to learn what endometriosis is, what symptoms to look out for, what treatments are available and what you should do if you think you might have endometriosis.

What is endometriosis?

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Endometriosis is a medical condition that can affect anyone born with a uterus. Pronounced ‘en-doh-mee-tree-oh-sis’, it occurs when cells similar to those found in the lining of the womb/uterus grow in other places in the body; typically in the pelvic region.

As these cells react to hormonal changes in the same way the cells in the uterus do, each month they ‘build up’ before breaking down and bleeding. However, unlike cells located in the womb which can escape during a ‘period’ or monthly bleed, the blood created by these dispersed cells cannot escape. The build-up of these cells in the pelvic area can lead to the formation of scar tissue or even adhesions (where scar tissue binds your pelvic organs together), irritation or severe pain and the condition is also often associated with fertility problems.

It’s estimated that 30-50% of menstruators suffering from fertility issues may have some form of endometriosis.
Endometriosis can be an incredibly painful and debilitating condition, and it’s much more common than you might imagine. In fact, endometriosis is the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK.

What are the key symptoms to look out for?

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The difficulty in diagnosing endometriosis is that the symptoms can vary hugely from person to person. For some, symptoms are only mild and inconvenient - for others, they can be completely debilitating. What’s interesting about endometriosis is that the level of pain or discomfort doesn’t necessarily correlate to the severity of your condition.

You can have mild endometriosis but be in serious pain, or the condition may have progressed to a severe stage without you experiencing any symptoms at all. 
  • The following can all be symptoms of endometriosis:
  • Pelvic pain (this is the most common symptom)
  • Painful and/or heavy periods
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Period cramps that last for 1-2 weeks
  • Pain during sex
  • Lower back pain at any stage of the menstrual cycle
  • Uncomfortable or painful bowel movements
  • Fatigue or muscle aches
  • Infertility
It’s important to remember that some people with endometriosis will experience none of these symptoms, while others will experience some or even all of them.

What should I do if I think I might have endometriosis?

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On average it takes 8 years from the onset of symptoms to get a diagnosis of endometriosis. It can be helpful to keep a symptom diary. Endometriosis UK has a Pain & Symptom Diary template that you can use to track your experiences.

This can be a very helpful tool for your GP in deciding what (if any) tests to run or treatments to try.
If you are experiencing pain or discomfort and think you might have endometriosis, you should book an appointment with your GP.

What treatments are available?

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There is no ‘cure’ for endometriosis, however, there are several different treatment options available to explore:

Pain Medication

If standard pain medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol haven’t eased your symptoms, your GP may prescribe you some stronger painkillers.

Hormonal Therapies

Some people obtain excellent results using hormonal treatments to regulate their endometriosis symptoms by preventing or reducing the monthly growth and buildup of endometrial tissue. These can include more traditional hormonal birth control remedies such as the pill, injection, implant or patch, or oestrogen suppressants.


As a treatment for endometriosis, surgery will typically be reserved for when other, more conservative options have been unsuccessful. The most common kind of endometriosis surgery takes a targeted approach that removes or destroys buildups of endometrial tissue outside of the womb. This can help to reduce pain and is usually performed laparoscopically. 
Alternatively, and usually, as a last resort when all other treatment options have failed and where the pain experienced is incredibly debilitating, a surgical hysterectomy can be performed.

During a hysterectomy, a surgeon will remove the uterus and ovaries entirely, as well as any visible areas of adherence or endometrial lesions. The surgery can also include the cervix and part of the vagina if necessary. This process is not a ‘cure’ - but in severe cases, it can alleviate or eliminate pain. However, it leaves the patient completely infertile.
For more information about endometriosis, visit www.endometriosis-uk.org. 
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