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Endometriosis awareness month may be coming to an end but there is much more to learn

Published: 28/03/2023

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. Endometriosis is a condition that affects those who have menstrual periods and is most common in those between the ages of 30 and 40. In endometriosis, cells that are typically found within the womb grow in other places in the body. This can cause chronic pain as well as anxiety and sleep problems.

Endometriosis Facts and Figures

According to Endometriosis UK, these are the latest statistics on endometriosis:

  • In the UK, 1 in 10 of those assigned female at birth and of reproductive age iare affected by endometriosis.
  • It is estimated that 176 million people globally have endometriosis.
  • The prevalence of endometriosis in women with infertility is estimated to be between 30–50%.
  • On average it takes 7.5 years from onset of symptoms before a diagnosis is made.
  • The cause of endometriosis is still unknown, but the most common theory is that cells from the womb lining migrate out of the womb via the fallopian tubes during a period.

Meet the Expert

Consultant rheumatologist Dr Wendy Holden at Sapphire Clinics gives her expert insight into the disease:

“In the UK, around 1 in 10 women aged between 25 and 40 are currently living with endometriosis. In endometriosis, cells similar to the ones in the lining of the womb grow elsewhere in the body, most typically elsewhere in the pelvis. These cells react to the changing hormones during the menstrual cycle. They grow thicker in size as oestrogen levels peak in the middle of the cycle and then they break away and start to bleed (like the lining of the womb during a period). This blood is slowly reabsorbed by the body but the process can cause inflammation, pain, and the formation of scar tissue.

“Many women with endometriosis don’t feel “heard” – it can be a difficult condition to diagnose as its symptoms can be similar to other conditions and a definitive diagnosis cannot be made without keyhole surgery. In fact, research shows that there is an average 7.5 year gap for women between the onset of symptoms and receiving a firm diagnosis.

“Pain, sleep, and anxiety are closely interlinked for many patients with endometriosis and one of the keys to managing the condition is to break this negative cycle.

“To explain, chronic pain interrupts sleep, lack of sleep means it’s more difficult to cope with pain during the day, focusing on everyday tasks is challenging and it’s harder to introduce positive lifestyle changes such as exercise – this in turn can result in poor mental health such as anxiety and depression. This can subsequently heighten the severity and impact of the pain.

“Many women struggle to hold down a job as they may need frequent absences from work when their pain is at its worst. Some may find it very difficult to get out of bed and have difficulty with eating, nausea and vomiting on bad days. Additionally, many women are embarrassed to speak about their condition in a work environment.”

Patient story:

Sapphire patient, Candice, recently spoke to the Sunday Times about her experience with endometriosis. Candice’s symptoms started when she started her period at 11 years old, she realised her experience was very different to that of her friends of the same age.

She suffered with urinary tract infections and constipation that would last up to a fortnight. By the age of 15 she was also experiencing nausea and vomiting.

Candice has undergone 16 operations to relieve her symptoms, but her symptoms always came back. Candice explained “The hardest thing for me about endometriosis is with every surgery your loved ones want you to get better and you want to get better. As you recover from the operation you get better and then there will be a red flag symptom, such as a urinary tract infection or nausea. It starts to come back subtly. I have never managed to get past nine months without feeling I could do with another surgery”

What is Sapphire Clinics Doing to Help?

One of the most common symptoms for which those with endometriosis seek help is chronic pain. This pain can be continuous, but often it is related or exacerbated by the menstrual cycle, movement in the gastrointestinal tract, urination, and/or sexual intercourse.

Sapphire Clinics are dedicated to ensuring that they play a defining role in helping clinicians and patients make the right decisions for their healthcare. As part of this commitment, we have developed the UK Medical Cannabis Registry to help analyse the outcomes of patients seen at the clinic to help inform the care of other patients in the future.

A recent paper published by Sapphire Clinics authors in Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, assessed changes in pain severity and its interference in day-to-day life in those with chronic pain, helping us better understand which patients may be the most suitable for therapy with medical cannabis.

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