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NHS HIGHLAND: Many women are told their pain is normal – it isn’t

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Endometriosis can impact physical health, emotional wellbeing and daily routine.
Endometriosis can impact physical health, emotional wellbeing and daily routine.

Endometriosis is a word you may or may not have come across before. It refers to a long-term, chronic condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb is found elsewhere in the body.

Many refer to endometriosis as a “hidden” condition; however, it is actually incredibly common, affecting around one in 10 of people who menstruate. For many people, it can have a significant impact on their physical health, emotional wellbeing and daily routine. We’ve all known someone or perhaps experienced ourselves a time where we’ve had bad period pains, however, the symptoms of endometriosis can often be so debilitating that it prevents people from carrying out normal, everyday activities, such as going to work or school.

March was Endometriosis Awareness Month. The first step towards treating a condition such as endometriosis is increasing awareness. It is notoriously difficult to diagnose. This is because symptoms vary and can often be similar to many other conditions, therefore it is often misunderstood.

The most common symptom is severe pain in the pelvis (especially during menstrual periods), but other ones to look out for is heavy bleeding during or between period and trouble getting pregnant. The average diagnosis time for endometriosis is eight-and-a-half years. Many women are often told their pain is normal, when it is actually far from it. Endometriosis can frequently feel very isolating because many women find it difficult to discuss their symptoms.

This is why it’s more important than ever to raise awareness around women’s health – endometriosis in particular. The more people are aware of it, the more people talk about it, allowing for those with endometriosis to seek the help they deserve, while realising they’re not alone. Not only that, but it allows for funding to be allocated to researching, treating, and potentially curing endometriosis.

Scotland is the first country in the UK to have a Women’s Health Plan, which outlines ambitious improvement and change in areas including menopause, heart health, menstrual health including endometriosis, and sexual health. It was created based on lived experiences. In terms of endometriosis, the hope for this plan is to reduce diagnosis times and improve the care and support available. If you’re interested in staying up to date with news and developments around women’s health and services, Alliance has a monthly mailing list you can subscribe to.

Kirsty Forman.
Kirsty Forman.

Additionally, last year, Wellbeing of Women announced a partnership with the Scottish Government on endometriosis research. A grant of £250,000 was open to researchers based in Scotland to enable them to again improve diagnosis and treatments for women and girls all over the UK.

Addressing endometriosis and women’s health allows us to empower those affected. By ensuring high standards of our sexual and reproductive health, we can improve the quality of life and wellbeing for thousands of people.

You can find out more about endometriosis, as well as a video on living with the condition, on the NHS Inform website.

Kirsty Forman, programme manager for condition management and Women’s Health Plan at NHS Highland.

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