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What Is Endometriosis?

First, let’s get around the name - endometriosis - pronounced en-doe-me-tree-O-sis (or endo for short). Endometriosis is a very common condition, with research suggesting 1 in 10 people with periods are affected by it. 

So, what is it? 

Endometriosis is an often painful condition affecting folks who bleed, where cells similar to those that grow inside the uterus each month, grow in other areas of the body - in places they wouldn’t otherwise grow

These cells behave similarly to those inside your uterus. Each time you have a cycle, they grow, thicken and try to shed. But, because there’s no way for them to leave the body, they can wreak havoc creating lesions and other painful issues which can also cause inflammation and a lot of pain. This is why Endometriosis is one of the main causes of pelvic pain and painful sex.

It’s not known exactly what causes these endometrial-like cells to grow outside the uterus, though there is some research suggesting that it could be a combination of excess estrogen, genetics and immune system challenges. 

What symptoms might I have if I have endometriosis?

Symptoms can start from early adolescence onwards. You might experience constant symptoms that are always with you, or symptoms that come and go at different points in your menstrual cycle. 

Many folks with endometriosis experience similar signs and symptoms, including: 

  • Severely painful period cramps 
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding (soaking through a pad or tampon every 2 hours or more)
  • Pain during or after sex
  • Ongoing pain in your abdomen, lower back and/or thighs throughout your monthly cycle
  • Difficulty in getting pregnant

How do I know for sure whether I have endometriosis?

It can be difficult to diagnose because some people don’t have any symptoms, and medical awareness of the condition is still developing.  

If you think that you might have endometriosis, it’s helpful to use a calendar or app to track your pain, bleeding, cycle length and other symptoms. This gives you precise data to take to your healthcare professional and they can use this in making a diagnosis and developing a treatment plan. 

Early diagnosis can be helpful as endometriosis can get worse over time (especially without a tailored treatment plan). 

Diagnosis often involves telling your doctor about your symptoms and period history, and they will usually do a physical examination and might need to collect some tissue for testing through a biopsy. 

How is Endometriosis treated?

Depending on your individual symptoms and how endometriosis affects you, treatment often involves healthy lifestyle changes (like changes to diet, exercise and stress management), medications (to help with pain and hormone function), and in some cases, surgery can help to remove the problem cells. 

More research is needed to fully understand Endometriosis and other possible treatment options. 

Tracking your cycle is a great way to get data that you can show your GP to help pinpoint possible issues. 

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