Endometriosis is a painful and debilitating condition that affects many young women between the age of 20 and 40, causing severe pain and lowering their quality of life. Endometriosis can be treated using several effective techniques.

Symptoms of endometriosis

Pain and bleeding are common in endometriosis, with heavy and painful periods a major problem. Some bleeding also occurs between periods, and the pain can extend to the pelvis, back and leg, or even other parts of the body such as the lungs, eyes or skin. Severe endometriosis can also stop you getting pregnant.

What causes endometriosis?

In a normal uterus, the lining builds up every month in anticipation of accepting a fertilised egg and then sustaining a pregnancy. When no egg implants, the lining is lost as a period.

In women with endometriosis, tissue similar to the lining of the uterus occurs outside the womb. It can grow on the uterus itself or on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder or bowel. It can even develop in other tissues such as the lungs, the brain, the eyes and the skin.

The blood-filled tissue that develops cannot get out of the body easily, and it can cause inflammation, infection and adhesions to form, which cause even more pain.

Treating the pain of endometriosis

Some women can cope with their condition if they have good pain relief during their period or at other times when the pain is severe. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs  such as ibuprofen, commonly known as nurofen can also reduce the inflammation, and can be used in combination with paracetamol and/or codeine.

Hormone treatments for endometriosis

Several hormonal treatments are available at The London Clinic including:

  • The Mirena intrauterine system (IUS): a coil-like device that is placed inside the body of the uterus that releases progestogen, a synthetic hormone that mimics progesterone. You will stop producing eggs and your menstrual cycle will stop, allowing the endometriosis tissue outside the uterus to shrink and be absorbed.
  • Mimics of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH): these are taken as a nasal spray and prevent your body producing the oestrogen that fuels endometriosis.

Surgery for endometriosis

Keyhole surgery can be used to physically remove the patches of endometrial tissue that are causing the worst of your inflammation and pain, but surgery can rarely remove all the tissue. It can recur later and so surgery is usually combined with hormonal treatments.