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Article by Sarah Hamilton-Walker | 1st March 2018

Coping with Endometriosis

Endometriosis Awareness Week takes place from 3rd-9th March. It is a common condition, which affects one in 10 women worldwide yet despite that fact, there is often much confusion over what the condition is, the warning signs you should look out for, and if/how the condition can be treated.

Here, Dr Victoria Walker, leading fertility specialist at Institut Marques, shares expert insight on the topic of endometriosis.

What is endometriosis?

• Endometriosis is a medical condition that occurs when the tissue lining a woman’s uterus (called the endometrium) grows in other areas of the body – for example, in the fallopian tubes, on the ovaries, or the abdomen.
• The endometrial cells found outside the uterus behave in a similar way to those found inside the womb in that they also undergo the menstrual process. So each month these cells build up, then break down and bleed just like the endometrial cells inside the uterus. However, unlike a period, which is discharged through the vagina, this blood has no way to escape. It therefore can accumulate, sometimes making cysts on the ovaries or elsewhere in the abdomen, and making the organs inside the abdomen stick together.
• Endometriosis mainly affects girls and women of childbearing age. It is a long-lasting condition, which can be debilitating and often painful.

What are the main symptoms?

The most common symptoms include:

• Very painful periods that are occasionally heavy.
• Pain in the lower abdomen (tummy), pelvis or lower back.
• Pain during and after sex.
• Pain while going to the toilet, especially during your period.
• Feeling sick during your period.
• Experiencing constipation or diarrhoea during your period.
• Bleeding between periods.
• Difficulty getting pregnant.

Dr Walker says: “These symptoms can vary from woman to woman, and some people will also suffer more severe symptoms than others. Interestingly, the severity of symptoms is not always related to the amount of endometriotic tissue found, so patients with mild endometriosis can have very severe symptoms.”

How is endometriosis treated?

“Unfortunately, there is currently no cure available for those living with endometriosis – however, there are many ways in which patients can effectively manage their symptoms. The right form of treatment will depend on the severity of the condition, the symptoms experienced, and whether the patient is trying to become pregnant.”

To lessen the pain associated with endometriosis, there are many pain management options available. For example:

• Taking a hot water bottle to bed, or having a hot bath to reduce discomfort.
• Taking painkillers (non steroidal treatments such as Ibuprofen, Diclofenac or Mefanamic acid) to block the production of prostaglandins in the body.
• Physiotherapy to help strengthen pelvic floor muscles, reduce pain, and manage stress and anxiety.
• Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator (TENS) machines (small, unobtrusive machines with electrodes that attach to the skin and send electrical pulses into the body) to produce endorphins which are natural painkillers.
• Hormone therapies can also be used as a treatment for endometriosis, or as part of a combined therapy. These hormonal therapies aim to reduce the severity of the condition by suppressing the growth of endometrial cells and stopping any bleeding.
• Visit www.institutmarques.com/en

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