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Endometriosis Series: What is Endometriosis?

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When I first heard the term ‘Endometriosis’, I had no idea what it was. Many people are unaware of its existence and may even have it and not know. The symptoms of it are often brushed off as normal experiences, which means that it is difficult to diagnose it.

Do you experience abnormally painful and heavy periods? With distressing symptoms such as nausea and diarrhoea? Then you may be experiencing Endometriosis. Don’t worry, it is not as scary as it sounds!

This series will explain what Endometriosis is and how to deal with it if you have it. 

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue from the womb lining starts growing in affected areas such as the ovaries and the fallopian tubes. These tissue cells act in the same way as those in the womb during your period each month. The lining is shed from the organs it is attached to. This process makes the symptoms during your period worse, causing more pain and other discomfort.

It can also affect your fertility, making it difficult to get pregnant. It is thought that the increase in scar tissue on the reproductive organs makes conception less likely. Those with mild Endometriosis have an almost normal chance of pregnancy, however those with moderate to extreme may experiences difficulties.  Although it is not entirely understood how it affects fertility, there is a definite association.

Endometriosis can affect women of all ages, often causing painful and  chronic symptoms which can have significant impacts on day to day lives.

How common is it?

Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women in the UK and around 10% of women worldwide. It is the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK.

So you are not alone in your struggle should you be diagnosed with it.

Although despite how common it is, it takes roughly 7 years of symptoms before it is professionally diagnosed.

What causes Endometriosis?

We don’t know what causes Endometriosis. However several theories have been suggested by researchers.

Some believe that genetics play a part in susceptibility. Others believe that problems with the immune system can cause it.

There is a theory of Retrograde Menstruation. This is where some of the womb lining flows up the Fallopian tubes instead of coming out in a period. The tissues from the womb lining attach to the organs in the pelvis such as the ovaries and this is where Endometriosis manifests itself.

However, none of these explain why Endometriosis happens. The cause is still unknown, but it is generally believed that there are multiple contributing factors.

What are the symptoms of Endometriosis?

There are a variety of symptoms of Endometriosis, many of which you may have just brushed off as normal.

The condition can affect your periods:

  • Bad period pain.
  • Pain when going to the toilet on your period.
  • Feeling sick, experiencing diarrhoea, constipation or other discomfort while on your period.
  • Back pain or pelvic pain when on period.
  • Uncomfortably heavy or long periods.
  • Bad PMS.

The condition can also affect your day to day life:

  • Pain during or after sex.
  • Difficulty getting pregnant 
  • Poor mental health, such as depression.
  • General back and stomach pain.
  • Fatigue
  • Depression

Dispelling Misconceptions

There is often a lot of shame surrounding the female reproductive system. Periods are stigmatised and so is female sexuality in general. Endometriosis is not free from stigmatisation.

It is important to know that Endometriosis is not an infection, nor is it contagious or a cancer. It is a chronic condition which requires attention from medical professionals.

 

Final Thoughts

Endometriosis can be extremely difficult to live with so getting it diagnosed and treated is important. Hopefully this series will help you understand the condition and the treatments available. Maybe it will even help you understand your own experiences.

The next instalment of this series will be discussing various treatment options.

 

Sources:

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Endometriosis Series: Treatments
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