What is endometriosis and what does it look like?
Endometriosis is a long term condition where cells similar to the cells in the uterus (womb) are found elsewhere in the body, such as on the ovaries.
This means the cells act in a similar way by building up in preparation for a fertilised egg to implant, and then breaking down and bleeding (your period) when implantation doesn't occur. As there is nowhere for the tissue and blood to go, it can cause inflammation, pain and scarring.
What causes endometriosis
It is not really known what causes endometriosis but it has been linked to possible genetics, an immune system problem, and retrograde menstruation when menstrual blood and uterine tissue flows backwards into the pelvis instead of down through the vagina.
Symptoms of endometriosis
Often symptoms include:
Pain in the lower abdomen and lower back
Bloating and abdominal distension (endo belly)
Bad period pain which stops you enjoying your daily life
Pain during or after intercourse
Pain when going to the toilet
However, symptoms can vary and be confused with other gynaecological conditions.
What can endometriosis be mistaken for?
Endometriosis has a history of a long diagnosis time. It can often be misdiagnosed as:
Pelvic inflammation disease
Irritable bowel syndrome
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
A GP would usually perform a pelvic examination and if they suspect endometriosis you will be referred for an ultrasound scan and to a gynaecologist for a laparoscopy.
A laparoscopy is the only way to confirm a diagnosis of endometriosis. Your gynaecologist will make a small incision in your abdomen and insert a thin tube with a light on the end of it to take a detailed examination of your uterus and surrounding areas.
Is endometriosis a serious problem?
Endometriosis is painful and can have impact on your day to day life but it not life threatening.
How is endometriosis treated?
Symptoms of endometriosis can be treated with the use of anti-inflammatories and painkillers.
Hormone medication can help to reduce the amount of oestrogen in your body which promotes the growth of endometrial tissue.
However, surgery may be required to remove existing tissue. In extreme cases and if you do not wish for any future children, a hysterectomy can be considered.
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