7th – 14th March is Endometriosis Awareness Week 2016. Many adults won’t have heard of endometriosis unless they’ve been unfortunate enough to come across the condition personally.
Endometriosis is a chronic and painful condition resulting in painful or heavy periods for 1 in 10 women of reproductive age in the UK.(1)
The classic symptoms of endometriosis are:
- Painful periods
- Painful sex
Women can also report the following symptoms:
Pain: painful periods, pain starting before periods, pain during or after sexual intercourse, ovulation pain, pain on internal examination, leg pain, back pain
Bleeding: heavy periods with/without clots, prolonged bleeding, pre-menstrual spotting, irregular periods, loss of dark or old blood before a period or at the end of a period
Bowel and Bladder Symptoms: painful bowel movements, pain before or after opening bowels, bleeding from the bowel, pain when passing urine, pain before or after passing urine, blood in the urine (haematuria), symptoms of an irritable bowel – diarrhoea, constipation, colic
Other symptoms can include: lethargy, nausea, extreme tiredness, depression, frequent infections such as thrush (candida), feeling faint/ fainting during periods
Most women with endometriosis will experience some of the symptoms above, but some will have no symptoms at all.
NHS Choices suggests that patients contact their GP the first instance, who may then refer onto a gynaecologist. "It can be difficult to diagnose endometriosis because the symptoms can vary considerably, and many other conditions can cause similar symptoms.
Your gynaecologist will ask about your symptoms, your periods and possibly your sexual activity. They may also carry out an internal pelvic exam or recommend an ultrasound scan to look for cysts in your ovaries that may have been caused by endometriosis.
Endometriosis can only be confirmed with a surgical examination called a laparoscopy. This is carried out under general anaesthetic (where you're put to sleep) and you can usually go home the same day.
A thin tube with a light on the end (laparoscope) will be passed into your body through a small cut in your skin at your belly button. It has a tiny camera that transmits images to a video monitor so the specialist can see any endometriosis tissue.
During the procedure, a small sample of tissue (biopsy) can be taken for laboratory testing, or other surgical instruments can be inserted to treat the endometriosis."
There are different ways of managing the symptoms, and the correct treatment plan will be chosen in consultation with a healthcare professional. Treatment will depend on age, severity or disease and symptoms, previous treatment and a compromise between future fertility and pain relief.
If you have endometriosis, you’ll need to declare it when applying for travel insurance. The condition will slightly raise your premium, but failure to disclose the condition may result in a claim being refused.
When applying for travel insurance and disclosing endometriosis you’ll be asked two simple questions. Both are answered ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
- Do you have chronic pelvic pain?
- Have you had any surgery for this condition?
There’s a vast wealth of information on the Endometriosis UK website. They also have a helpline which can be contacted on 0808 808 2227.
1. Rogers PA, D'Hooghe TM, Fazleabas A, et al. Priorities for endometriosis research: recommendations from an international consensus workshop. Reprod Sci 2009;16(4):335-46.