The finding was highlighted by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) in their first ever guidance on managing the debilitating disease. They said that GPs and specialists frequently overlook or discount symptoms like painful periods, with women going for years without appropriate treatment.
Endometriosis – when tissue from inside the womb grows outside of it, resulting in painful adhesions on the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes and bowel, often leading to infertility – has been misunderstood and neglected for decades, according to experts.
“Delayed diagnosis is a significant problem for many women with endometriosis leading them to years of unnecessary distress and suffering,” said Professor Mark Baker, director of the centre for guidelines at Nice.
“The condition is difficult to diagnose as symptoms vary and are often unspecific. However, once it has been diagnosed, there are effective treatments available that can ease women’s symptoms. This guideline will help healthcare professionals detect endometriosis early, to close the symptom to diagnosis gap and to ensure more timely treatment.”
Caroline Overton, chairman of the guideline committee and a consultant gynaecologist, said,‘“There is no cure for endometriosis, so helping affected women manage their symptoms is imperative.”
It’s estimated that the disease affects over 176 million women around the world, with celebrities like Lena Dunham and Susan Sarandon speaking openly about their experiences with it.
Nice has directed the National Health System in the UK to 'listen to women' and strongly consider endometriosis if a patient presents with continuing pelvic pain, severe period pain, pain during sex or infertility, even if an ultrasound doesn't show signs of the disease. The only way to really diagnose endometriosis is by a laparoscopy – an invasive operation in which a tissue sample is taken to be tested.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms noted above, speak to a medical professional.