This article has been medically approved by Pharmacist Sumaiya Patel - GPhC Reg No: 2215078
Endometriosis is the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK. One in ten women in the UK suffer from this chronic and often debilitating condition where tissue similar to that in the lining of the womb is found elsewhere in the body.  In our article below, we’ll look at the symptoms, causes and treatments for endometriosis, as well as additional conditions linked to it.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
The symptoms of endometriosis can vary from person to person. Some people are badly affected, while others might not have any noticeable symptoms. The main symptoms of endometriosis are:
- Pain in your lower tummy or back which is usually worse during your period
- Period pain which stops you doing your normal activities
- Pain during or after sex
- Pain when peeing or pooing during your period
- Feeling sick, constipation, diarrhoea, or blood in your pee during your period
- Difficulty getting pregnant
Endometriosis also causes painful or heavy periods. It can also lead to fatigue, bowel problems, and bladder problems.
Endometriosis can have a significant impact on your life. Secondary symptoms of endometriosis can include:
- Chronic pain
- Lack of energy
- Problems in relationships
- Difficulty fulfilling work and social commitments
The primary complication of endometriosis is difficulty getting pregnant or not being able to get pregnant at all. Surgery to remove endometriosis tissue can help to improve your chances of getting pregnant, although it’s not guaranteed.
If you suspect you have endometriosis, you should see your GP. It may help you to record your symptoms before seeing a doctor. The charity Endometriosis UK has a pain and symptoms diary you can use.
Getting diagnosed may take some time, as the symptoms of endometriosis are similar to other common conditions. Your GP will ask about your symptoms and may ask to examine your tummy and vagina.
The only definitive way to diagnose endometriosis is with a laparoscopy. A surgeon passes a small camera into the pelvis through a small cut in your tummy to look for signs of endometriosis. If it is diagnosed, it may be treated or removed for further examination during this appointment.
Causes of Endometriosis
When you have endometriosis, cells similar to the ones found in the lining of the uterus are found elsewhere in the body. Each month, these cells react in the same way to the cells in the uterus – building up and then breaking down and bleeding. However, unlike cells in the uterus that leave the body as a period, this blood is trapped. It’s this that causes the pain, inflammation, and formation of scar tissues associated with endometriosis.
The cause of endometriosis is not fully understood. Several theories have been suggested, including a genetic factor, retrograde menstruation, a problem with the immune system, or endometrium cells spreading through the body in the bloodstream or lymphatic system. Unfortunately, none of these theories fully explain why endometriosis happens.
Treatments for Endometriosis
There is currently no cure for endometriosis, but treatments can reduce the severity of your symptoms and improve the quality of life. Your GP or gynaecologist will work with you to create a treatment plan based on your symptoms.
- Painkillers like ibuprofen and paracetamol
- Hormone medicines and contraceptives like the combined pill, the contraceptive patch, an intrauterine system, and medicines called gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogues
- Surgery to cut away the patches of endometriosis tissue
- An operation to remove part or all of the organs affected by endometriosis, such as a hysterectomy