I thought it was only fitting going along with my previous blog post what is Crohn’s and considering it was one of the most google searched medical questions of 2018 that today’s blog post addressed the question what is endometriosis?
To give a bit of background we’ll start with the amazing female reproductive system. Each month the ovaries make an egg, during the time the egg is being made the uterus creates a lining which is essentially a home filled with nutrients where the egg will live and grow into a baby if it’s fertilised. The egg travels down the Fallopian tubes into the uterus waits a few days to be fertilised and if unsuccessful leaves through the vagina 2 weeks later with the lining in the form of a period. During this cycle hormones change, some go up, some go down and this can cause symptoms such as mood swings, acne, sore boobs, nausea, headaches and pain during the actual period.
Now to go onto endometriosis, for some reason much deliberated in science 10% of the female population do not have a reproductive system that works as correctly as the one described above. The uterine lining normally saved just to house a growing baby decides to grow on other areas as endometriosis implants on the ovaries, outside of the uterus, bowel, bladder, kidneys and really any other organ. There have even been reports of endometriosis in the brain.
What does this mean symptom wise? Well firstly a lot of pain, particularly for me. From the very first period I ever had pain was just standard, and not just your normal I need a hot water bottle and perhaps don’t want to go out tonight type of pain but the type of pain that means you cannot do anything other than alternate between hot baths, bed and the sofa. The lining which grows in places it really should not be sheds each month in the same way that the uterus does but it has nowhere to go meaning it just keeps bleeding and scarring, then causing adhesions and inflammation and irritation and generally just leaves your insides in a bit of a mess. Other symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, fatigue and the big one infertility.
It takes on average 7 years for a woman to be diagnosed with endometriosis and then usually another 6 months to have surgery on the NHS if you don’t include the months of trialling hormone treatment after hormone treatment to try and fix it without surgery. So if you can imagine a wound inside your body that each month bleeds and scars that’s 90 periods a woman will go through on average before they get any help. Completely shocking I know….
There have been massive strides in the last few years in raising awareness for endometriosis mainly due to the amazing female population speaking out about the condition but its still a big problem for so many women and the treatments available are still limited. At the moment the usual treatments are firstly contraceptive pills moving onto the mirena coil and then surgery. The surgery itself is controversial as many UK Dr’s only perform what is called ablation where the endometriosis implants are burnt away using a laser. This usually results in the endometriosis growing back in 1-2 years. What is recommended is excision surgery where the endometriosis is cut away at the route providing a much longer timescale of the implants being gone and in some cases it is gone forever. The most drastic treatment option is a hysterectomy which itself leads to further issues especially in women who have this very young.
Overall its an awful disease to have, you may have heard the saying if men had endometriosis there would be a cure and this is so true. I was dismissed for so many years being told the pain was normal and I actually only got diagnosed by accident having surgery to remove an ovarian cyst. There needs to be even more awareness around periods and the stigma removed from a completely normal bodily function that happens to almost every female every single month, its a condition that is not linked to lifestyle choices so should be treated the same as any other medical disease.
I am not a medical professional and the above is based on personal experience and research done myself. Please consult a medical professional for any health advice.
Thanks for reading.