Let’s Talk: Endometriosis

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As Endometriosis awareness month begins, Rachel Hains explores this relatively unknown medical condition and why anybody with a uterus should be made aware of it.

As anybody who has the joy of experiencing periods each month can tell you, it definitely is not a walk in the park. True, periods are just like people, as varied and as individual as whoever you speak to. One person may not experience such difficulty as another. Still, very few people are aware of the fact that extremely painful periods are not common and can be a sign of something else: Endometriosis.

As Endometriosis awareness month begins, it is well worth re-highlighting its severity. Just like sexual health, it is not something we should be embarrassed to talk about. If you are ending up bedridden or sick as a result of periods you deserve to be made aware of the fact you may need medical help and are entitled to receive it from someone who will take you seriously. People. Trust your body!

I, personally, am ashamed to admit the condition was not something I was even aware of until a few years ago. A friend of mine had recently been diagnosed after experiencing horrific pain and side effects of her monthly cycle. After visiting her local GP she was given the diagnosis and decided to have surgery to relieve the symptoms. Now I want to make sure no one else remains ignorant of what is a very serious issue, by creating an easy to understand guide. 

So, what is Endometriosis exactly?

According to the NHS, Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Each month these cells react in the same way to those in the womb, building up and then breaking down and bleeding. Unlike the cells in the womb that leave the body as a period, this blood has no way to escape, which is what causes painful or heavy periods. It may also lead to infertility, fatigue and bowel and bladder problems. 

What are the symptoms?

  • Chronic pain
  • Fatigue/lack of energy
  • Depression/isolation
  • Problems with a couple’s sex life/relationships
  • An inability to conceive
  • Difficulty in fulfilling work and social commitments

How common is it?

Around 1.5 million people in the UK are currently living with the condition. It is vital to remember Endometriosis can affect anyone with a uterus, regardless of race or ethnicity.

What treatments are there?

Unfortunately, there is no current cure for Endometriosis, however different treatments available to reduce the severity of symptoms and improve the quality of life. Treatment options available are:

  • Surgery
  • Hormone treatment
  • Pain relief

If I think I may have it, what should I do?

Keeping a track of your cycles and pain levels can be a really good idea. Also, book yourself an appointment with a medical professional to discuss any concerns you may have. Above all, as Endometriosis UK state on their website: remember Endometriosis is not an infection; Endometriosis is not contagious and Endometriosis is not cancer. It can still be life altering though and should not be treated lightly. 

Finally, I know it is a well-established part of our culture for anyone with a uterus to present ourselves as martyrs, each groaning and trying to outdo each other in our monthly woes (again – I admit I am guilty here too). However, I can not emphasise enough how much this needs to change. Anyone in this position should be using these kinds of conversations for productive means: encouraging people not to suffer in silence, to seek medical help if needed and to consider ways to help take care of themselves.

If you suspect you may be suffering from this condition please visit a GP or medical professional. Support is also available through organisations such as Endometriosis UK, who can be reached online at https://www.endometriosis-uk.org/get-support or by calling 0808 808 2227.