Why do we need to be aware of endometriosis?
One in ten women have endometriosis which frequently presents with bloating, severe pain, mood disturbances and which can cause infertility in up to 40% of sufferers. In this blog we highlight March as Endometriosis awareness month – which aims to promote knowledge and understanding of endometriosis among the medical profession, education sector, employers, and society in general. In addition this years’ campaign affirms the right of women to access best practice with consistent care and treatment.
A roundup of key facts from Endometriosis UK1 shows that:
- 10% of women world-wide have endometriosis = 176 million women.2
- The prevalence of endometriosis in women with infertility to be as high as to 30–50%.3
- Endometriosis is the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK.4
- Endometriosis affects 1.5 million women, a similar number of women affected by diabetes.5
- On average it takes 8 years from onset of symptoms to get a diagnosis.6
- Endometriosis costs the UK economy £8.2bn a year in treatment, loss of work and healthcare costs.7
- The cause of endometriosis is unknown and there is no definite cure.1
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a disorder that impacts the tissue lining the inside of the uterus, called the endometrium. Sometimes, the tissue grows outside the uterus, resulting in this painful disorder. In most cases, it involves the ovaries, bowel, or the tissue lining the pelvis. In rare situations, endometrial tissue can spread beyond the pelvic region.
During a woman’s normal menstrual cycle, the tissue builds up and is shed if she does not become pregnant. Endometrial tissue acts like it normally would, thickening, breaking down, and allowing women to bleed with their menstrual cycle. However, since the tissue is displaced, it has no way to exit the body and is trapped.
Although the disorder can cause pain at any time, many women experience severe pain particularly during their period. Endometriosis can cause the development of scar tissue and adhesions – binding organs together and therefore hindering their functioning. It can also lead to fertility problems, migraines, gut issues such as IBS and acid reflux, insomnia and mood changes.
Stigma around endometriosis
Endometriosis often takes years to diagnose properly and there is still a great deal of stigma around discussing the symptoms it presents with. This stigma may play a part in hesitancy in women coming forward for diagnosis and their willingness to describe the impact of the condition to their employer, friends and family. Whilst there are hormonal and surgical interventions for women sufferers that can temporarily or permanently prevent endometriosis, these are not without risk and wide ranging possible side-effects. For example many women end up having hysterectomy and being plunged into early menopause as a consequence.
Endometriosis is related to poor mental health in women
In addition to physical issues, a 2016 study reported that women who experience pelvic pain, migraines or mood swings associated with endometriosis are likely to require psychological intervention to deal with associated mental health issues.7 We can all do our part by talking openly about this condition and listening with empathy to those who suffer with this debilitating condition.
InsideOut – Support
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Author: Dr Becky Lunson Southall, Chief Therapist at InsideOut (and Endo sufferer!)
- https://www.endometriosis-uk.org/endometriosis-facts-and-figures [accessed 08/03/2022]
- 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.
- Meuleman C, Vandenabeele B, Fieuws S, Spiessens C, Timmerman D, D’Hooghe T. High prevalence of endometriosis in infertile women with normal ovulation and normospermic partners. Fertil Steril 2009;92(1):68-74.
- University College London Hospitals. General information about Endometriosis. Accessed February 2014.
- Diabetes UK: Diabetes prevalence 2012. (April 2012). Diabetes affects around 2.9 million people, of which slightly less than half of this are women.
- Endometriosis in the UK: Time for Change – APPG on Endometriosis Inquiry Report 2020
- https://www.belmarrahealth.com/endometriosis [accessed 08/03/22]