As Alexa Chung reveals she has endometriosis, here’s everything you need to know about the condition

18th Jul 19 | Lifestyle

10% of women suffer from it worldwide.

Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition Preview Party 2019 – London

It’s one of the most common gynaecological conditions that women face, endometriosis is believed to affect around 176 million of us worldwide, and today, Alexa Chung revealed she has it too.

Sharing a photo of herself standing in a hospital corridor, she wrote: “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member, but here I am,” alongside the hashtags “#endometriosisclub” and “#sorryifyouhaveittooitsucks.”

Despite its commonality, many people are still in the dark about endometriosis – even though other key celebs like Lena Dunham and Emma Bunton have spoken out about their experience of it to help raise awareness.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a medical condition where the tissue that usually grows on the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

When a woman gets her period, these cells react in the same way to those inside the womb, breaking down and bleeding. However, unlike the cells that are shed through the vagina, this blood has no way to escape.

Endometriosis can affect anyone of a childbearing age, and left unchecked it can lead to issues with fertility.

What are the symptoms?

Endometriosis can be an incredibly debilitating condition, and one of the most common symptoms that women experience is period pain that stops you from doing your normal activities.

However, the NHS say that symptoms can vary from woman to woman and some may be worse affected than others.

Other signs you have the condition may include pain in your lower tummy or back, pain during or after sex, feeling sick, constipation and diarrhoea.

Many women with endometriosis also report having heavier periods that require lots of tampons and pads, particularly in the first few days of menstruating.

Some women may also experience blood in their pee or difficulty getting pregnant.

How can I get a diagnosis?

Endometriosis can be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms can vary between women, but if you’re experiencing pain and other effects that are making day-to-day life difficult, it’s important to see your GP.

The NHS say that it’s a good idea to write down your symptoms before seeing your doctor – that way they can get a better idea of the severity of the symptoms. Endometriosis UK has a helpful pain and symptoms diary on its website that you can use.

A GP will examine your tummy and vagina, and in the first instance, they may recommend treatments that will help with the symptoms.

If the discomfort continues, they may then refer you to a
gynaecologist for some further tests. These could be an ultrasound scan or laparoscopy; where a surgeon passes a thin tube through a small incision in your tummy so they can monitor for any patches of endometriosis tissue. This is the only way to be certain you have endometriosis.

Currently, there is no ‘cure’ for the condition, but many women manage the symptoms by using painkillers, hormonal contraceptives or – in some instances – surgery to remove the endometriosis tissue.

© Press Association 2019