Let’s talk about endometriosis: here’s what you need to know

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March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, making it the perfect time to learn more about this condition that affects roughly 1.5 million women in the UK. Getting an endometriosis diagnosis can be really tough, and can significantly impact your life. That’s why we’ve pulled together some answers to your most commonly asked questions. Here, we’re getting to the bottom of endo myths and helping to break the stigma around endometriosis.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a condition where cells, similar to ones you’ll find in the lining of your womb, start growing in other places – like your ovaries and fallopian tubes. Every month, these cells react to your menstrual cycle the same way as your other cells do. This means they build up, break down and bleed. The problem is that the blood doesn’t have a way to leave your body, like your usual menstrual blood does.

We don’t yet know what the endometriosis causes are. There are a few theories about what causes the condition, including:

  • Genetics
  • Retrograde menstruation, which is when some of the womb lining flows up and embeds itself on the organs in your pelvis
  • A problem with your immune system
  • Endometriosis cells spreading through your body through your bloodstream or lymphatic system

What are endometriosis symptoms?

Signs of endometriosis can differ from person to person. Some people can be badly affected and others may not show any endometriosis symptoms. The main symptoms you should look out for are:

  • Pain in your lower tummy or back that’s usually worse during your period
  • Extreme period pain that can stop you doing normal activities
  • Pain during or after sex
  • Pain when you go to the toilet during your period
  • Feeling sick, constipated, having diarrhoea, or blood in your wee when during your period
  • Difficulty getting pregnant
  • Very heavy periods, where you might even bleed through your clothes

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Endometriosis is a long-term condition that can have a big impact on your life and mental health. It’s important to reach out and get the support you need.

Woman with endometriosis

What are the 4 stages of endometriosis?

These are the four stages of endometriosis, which are determined by factors such as location, number, size and depth of endometriosis tissue. The four stages are:

1. Minimal

This is where only a few small implants (endometriosis cell growths), wounds or lesions are found.

2. Mild

In mild cases, there are more implants found than in stage 1, and they’re also deeper in the tissue. There may also be more wounds and scar tissue.

3. Moderate

If you have moderate endometriosis, you may have quite a few deep implants. You might also have small cysts on one or both of your ovaries and large bands of scar tissue.

4. Severe

Severe endometriosis is the most widespread where you have many deep implants, a significant amount of scarring and large cysts on one or both of your ovaries.

How serious is endometriosis?

While endometriosis isn’t life threatening, that doesn’t mean it’s not a serious condition. If endometriosis is left untreated, it can get worse and cause serious health complications like:

  • Extreme pain in your pelvis
  • Infertility
  • Severe scarring and cysts on your ovaries
  • Bladder or bowel problems
  • Pelvic infections
  • A possible higher risk of ovarian cancer

Untreated endometriosis can also cause more serious health problems, that could be fatal if you don’t get help – such as:

  • Small bowel obstruction: While this is rare, endometriosis cells can migrate to your intestines where they can cause bleeding and scarring, which could lead to an obstruction.
  • Ectopic pregnancies: This is where the fertilised egg implants itself outside of your uterus – usually in one of your fallopian tubes.

Luckily, both of these conditions are treatable. If you think you might have either one, you should chat to your GP as soon as you can.

How do gynaecologists check for endometriosis?

There’s only one way your gynaecologist can check for certain if you have endometriosis, and that’s through a laparoscopy. This is an operation where a surgeon puts a camera into your pelvis through a small cut near your belly button. They’ll use the camera to see if you have any patches of endometriosis.

Will a pap smear detect endometriosis?

Unfortunately, a pap smear won’t be able to detect endometriosis – a pap smear only checks the health of your cervix. A smear test is also used to check for certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV).

BeYou Monthly Patches with soothing menthol

What endometriosis treatment options do I have?

Even though there’s not yet a cure, endometriosis pain and symptoms can be treated. Some of the treatments your doctor will discuss with you are:

  • Painkillers like ibuprofen and paracetamol. You could also try the BeYou Monthly Patch, which gives you fast-acting, long-lasting relief with its cooling menthol oils
  • Hormone medicines and contraceptives
  • Surgery to cut away patches of endometriosis tissue
  • Surgery to remove part or all of the affected organs. This could include a hysterectomy (surgery to remove your womb), but that’s a very last step – so don’t worry

If you think you have endometriosis, it’s important that you speak to your GP about it. You can try to keep a diary of your pain and symptoms, like the one from Endometriosis UK, which could help your doctor diagnose you.

You can also always reach out to our pharmacist, Giulia, who will be happy to chat through any concerns you have and get you the help you need.

Looking for some pain relief for symptoms of endometriosis? Buy the BeYou Monthly Patch today for delivery tomorrow.

Written by Natasha Edwards