What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition where cells like those lining the womb are found elsewhere in your body. The most common places are inside your pelvis or fallopian tubes, around your ovaries, on the outside of your womb or the ligaments holding it in place, or in the area between your rectum and womb.
Like the ones in your womb, these cells also break down and bleed once a month, but the blood can’t leave your body. While some women have no symptoms, others can suffer a chronic reaction.
Who is affected by endometriosis?
One in 10 women in the UK have endometriosis, it is the second most common gynaecological condition. Women of any age can have endometriosis, as well as girls of childbearing age.
One of the most severe symptoms of endometriosis is infertility – up to 50% of infertile women have the condition. Other symptoms include:
- Painful periods
- Pain during sex
- Chronic fatigue
- Painful bowel movements and pain when urinating
- Diarrhoea, constipation and other digestive problems
- Blood in your urine
- Chronic pelvic pain
What Causes Endometriosis?
Nobody knows what causes endometriosis, though there are a few theories:
- Retrograde menstruation, which is when some of the lining of your womb flows backwards through your fallopian tubes into your abdomen during your period and the tissue then implants itself and grows.
- Genetics: the sisters and mothers of women who have endometriosis are also likely to have the condition
- Endometriosis cells can get into the bloodstream or lymphatic system, though nobody knows how
We diagnose endometriosis in a few ways, including:
- a detailed clinical assessment of your symptoms
- a gynaecological examination
- a high resolution ultrasound and MRI scans of your pelvis
- a laparoscopy, which involves inserting a 5mm ultra-high definition endoscopic camera into your pelvis through a small cut in your navel under general anaesthetic
- further investigations on your bladder, bowel and other organs, depending on how severe your symptoms are
- a full assessment of your ovarian hormonal function, tubal patency and ovarian reserve, as well as other tests, if you’re planning to get pregnant