Endometriosis is frequently referred to as an invisible illness; it goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed and many women across the world simply suffer in silence, unaware that help is available.
One in ten women of reproductive age are afflicted by this painful and debilitating condition. Worse still, for those who don’t seek, or can’t access treatment, the consequences can be life changing: infertility, crippling pain and severe repercussions for mental wellbeing.
Despite many years of research, the medical community hasn’t been able to identify what causes endometriosis or how to cure it, but they have made great leaps in its treatment. More work needs to be done on raising awareness of this common, yet frequently misunderstood condition.
There is no known cure for endometriosis, but early diagnosis and treatment can vastly improve the quality of life of sufferers. There are treatments available that can manage symptoms and slow the progression of the condition. Equally, the longer endometriosis is left untreated, the worse it can become.
Delayed diagnosis has a psychological impact, too. Women are made to feel they are exaggerating or even fabricating their symptoms, or that their pain is ‘normal’, and that they should simply deal with it.
That this survey shows time to diagnosis at more than seven years suggests there is still a lack of understanding of endometriosis and its various clinical symptoms among non-specialists. Some of the symptoms of the condition can be very non-specific and can be easily overlooked or misattributed.
Thankfully, NICE released guidance in 2017 that offers clear criteria for referring women to secondary care. This includes patients with persisting symptoms, non-response to standard medications, and ultrasound or clinical examination that leads to suspicions of endometriosis. These criteria apply to adolescent girls, too.
With the right support, women suffering from endometriosis can achieve a better quality of life and the burden this condition places on them can be lifted.
- From the attached document, the "Endometriosis Matters" research paper, including sections from the foreword by Karen Prins, COO of BMI Healthcare; and the 'Specialists' View' by Mr Elias Kovoor.