Endometriosis – a sticky problem

Endometriosis is a common condition when pieces of the lining of the womb start growing elsewhere and causing problems. Usually, this occurs on the ovaries, fallopian tubes and surrounding tissue.

25-50 per cent of infertile women may have endometriosis. The lining tissue responds to hormones in the body, and can cause bleeding. Blood is an irritant and it leads to a build-up of scar tissue. As the disease progresses, adhesions may form, which are fibrous bands that connect normally unconnected structures.

Endometriosis, which may be inherited, does not always cause infertility. 70 per cent of women who have it have no symptoms at all. However, fallopian tubes can be kinked and bent out of shape by the adhesions, so the eggs cannot pass through to be fertilised. 

There is no cure for endometriosis but there are treatments which can reduce the symptoms. Pain medication (nearly half of those affected have chronic pelvic pain) and hormone treatments are used in the first instance. A keyhole operation can be performed to cut the adhesions and remove the cysts. The operation takes about two hours and has to be done with a great deal of care in order to not further compromise fertility. It is a difficult procedure but one that is very rewarding for the surgeon since it can often result in the patient being able to conceive naturally.

 Symptoms of endometriosis

Endometriosis can have a significant impact on a woman’s life in a number of ways, including:

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

Further Information

www.endometriosis-uk.org

Helpline: 0808 808 2227.

Mr Mike Bowen

Mr Mike Bowen is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Medical Legal Chambers UK.

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