This week (March 2 to 8) is officially Endometriosis Week and, in fact, the whole month is Endometriosis Awareness Month. Our CEO Julianne has this condition – more on that next week.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is the name given to a condition where cells like the ones in the lining of the womb (uterus) are found elsewhere in the body. These cells behave like those in the womb, and each month they also react in the same way, building up and then breaking down and bleeding. However, unlike the cells in the womb that leave the body as a period, the blood from these cells has no way of escape. This causes terrible pain and discomfort.
It is a chronic and debilitating condition that also causes painful or heavy periods. It may also lead to many other health problems.
Endometriosis can affect all women or girls of a childbearing age, regardless of race or ethnicity.
How many women or girls are affected by it?
According to Endometriosis UK:
- One in ten women of reproductive age in the UK suffer from endometriosis.
- 10% of women worldwide have it – that’s 176 million worldwide.
- The prevalence of endometriosis in women with infertility can be as high as 30–50%.
- It’s the second most common gynaecological condition (after fibroids) in the UK.
- Endometriosis affects a similar number of women as diabetes.
- On average it takes 7.5 years from onset of symptoms to get a diagnosis.
- Endometriosis costs the UK economy £8.2bn a year in treatment, loss of work and healthcare costs.
- The cause of endometriosis is unknown and there is no definite cure.
How do you know if you have endometriosis?
Symptoms may vary, from woman to woman, and some may experience no symptoms at all, which is why it can take so long for women to be diagnosed.
When it happens to some young girls prior to their periods starting, they may be told that it is just growing pains, normal teenage cramps. One story on the Endometriosis UK website tells Alice’s story as a young girl starting to have symptoms at the age of 12. However, she was not diagnosed until she had a laparoscopy.
Typical endometriosis symptoms include:
- painful periods.
- deep pain during sex
- chronic pelvic pain
- painful bowel movements, painful urination and blood in urine
- cyclical or premenstrual symptoms with or without abnormal bleeding
- chronic fatigue
- a family history of endometriosis
- painful caesarean section scar or cyclical lump
- back, legs and chest pain.
How you can support a friend or loved one with endometriosis:
Supporting someone with endometriosis can be hard, and you need to be flexible and understanding. Women probably find it easier to understand, because they can empathise, having suffered period pains themselves. However, the pain cause by endometriosis can be far worse, plus you may feel tired due to the amount of blood loss. Also, endometriosis is unpredictable; one day your friend may feel amazing, and the next, not even feel capable of going out of the house. If you find that unreliable, imagine how frustrating that is for your friend, who can never rely on how their body is going to feel from day to day. They need to know that your friendship or love is unconditional.
A few tips to help support a friend or loved one:
- Knowledge is power – do your own research about the condition.
- Tell them you’re always willing to listen, or talk – whichever they prefer
- Go with them to doctors’ appointments – even just to take notes, because when pain takes over, you often can’t concentrate on what is being said.
- If they feel they need the support of others – help them find a support group.
- Each person struggling with chronic pain establishes their own ways of coping. Ask or take note of how your loved one deals with this on a daily basis and ensure that you help rather than hinder.
- Show you care. If they take hot baths a lot, get them a bath bomb or relaxing soak that they like; offer to reheat their heating pad or bring them a cup of tea. Find little ways to take their mind off the pain, like watching a movie or listening to music
- It’s also important to recognize if your loved one prefers space or alone time in these moments. Don’t take it personally if they do; give them alone time.
For more information visit https://endometriosis-uk.org