By Mr Timothy Hookway, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist
Endometriosis is a very common gynaecological condition – typically affecting 1 in 10 women. Its cause is unknown, and it is a condition where cells that behave like the endometrium (lining of the womb) lie outside of the uterus.
It can be asymptomatic, but often causes issues with pain – on intercourse, during periods, whilst opening bowels and passing urine. It can progress to chronic pain that is unrelated to the menstrual cycle. It can cause problems with fertility – by affecting the fallopian tubes resulting in loss of function. In addition, ovarian reserve can be affected – either by forming ovarian cysts (endometriomas) or by aggressive surgical treatment of endometriosis.
Women may complain of pain – the symptoms are often non-specific, however when certain symptoms (painful sex, painful periods, pain on opening bowels during menstruation) occur together, then the likelihood of endometriosis is increased.
Delays in diagnosis are common – the typical time from onset of symptoms to diagnosis in the UK is 7-8 years and thus endometriosis most commonly presents in women in their late 20s and early 30s – some of whom present due to experiencing difficulties with fertility.