Awareness of the chronic condition, endometriosis has been growing in recent years, as women’s health charities and activist organisations alike seek to redress the balance of healthcare in the UK. Gynaecological healthcare has taken centre stage again, as the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists reveals that over half a million people are awaiting gynaecological appointments – and as high-profile individuals share their own stories about diagnosis and recovery.
Endometriosis is a lifelong condition, that describes the presence of endometrial tissue outside the womb. This tissue reacts to the menstrual cycle in the same way that inter-uterine tissue does, swelling and irritating the organs that surround it can cause severe pain in the process. The condition is thought to affect 10% of women worldwide.
Diagnosis and Delay
But endometriosis is an underrepresented illness in medical circles, and sufferers have been fighting to raise awareness for years. According to Endometriosis UK, the average endometriosis diagnosis takes eight years. Not only that, but the eight-year average is a statistic that has remained unchanged for a decade.
A major part of the reason for the inflated length of time between initial appointment and proper diagnosis relates to gynaecology medical negligence – specifically in the form of misdiagnosis. The symptoms of endometriosis are wide-ranging and sometimes vague, making doctors and GPs all the more likely to assume a more common condition first. However, GPs regularly fail to properly listen to the concerns of those suffering symptoms and can be wilfully ignorant with regard to requests for further investigation.
The Importance of Early Treatment
Diagnosis times are important for chronic conditions of any form but are particularly important for endometriosis. Without early diagnosis, endometriosis can progress and worsen – leading to new complications, new expressions of the disease and a severely reduced quality of life as a result.
The endometrial tissue growing outside the womb can continue to grow, causing increased levels of pain in sufferers. The tissue can put pressure on the ovaries and fallopian tubes, leading to cyst and scar tissue development – both of which can impact fertility as well as cause immense pain. Ovarian cancer risks are slightly elevated for endometriosis sufferers, too.
Endometriosis is a chronic condition with no known cure. Instead, there are various ways by which endometriosis, and the pain it causes, can be managed and mitigated. The most common prescription for endometriosis is simply painkillers, to help lessen the impact of pain during the menstrual cycle.
Hormone therapy is also available to control the menstrual cycle itself, preventing the endometrial tissue from swelling and causing severe pain during menstruation. Surgery is something of a last resort, but possible in order to remove tissue from sensitive areas. In particularly aggressive cases, patients may opt for a hysterectomy to completely remove the womb.
Unlike any other medical condition, endometriosis can cause significant disruption to someone’s daily lifestyle. By knowing the facts and raising awareness we can ensure that you or someone you know who may be suffering can get the help and support they need.