Endometriosis is a debilitating condition faced by up to 10% of all women and it often causes severe pain and infertility. Endometriosis happens when the lining cells of the womb travel to other parts of the body like the bladder or bowel and proliferate there. Although not fatal in most cases, it does reduce the quality of life for many women who suffer in silence. The pain is so bad that patients with endometriosis may spend days or even weeks in bed, unable to carry out daily activities. There is thus far no permanent cure for the condition, but it can be treated and the pain managed effectively.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has now introduced a complete guide to help healthcare professionals; especially doctors diagnose and treat endometriosis. The guide lists down the treatments options available and clear steps that need to be taken once a patient presents with symptoms of endometriosis.

Pelvic pain is a key symptom

Medical practitioners do not often recognise pelvic pain as being one of the symptoms of endometriosis, but it is definitely how the disease presents itself. This symptom can appear alongside more standard symptoms like menstrual related pain, pain during sexual intercourse, painful bowel movements, blood in the urine, pain passing urine and infertility.

Apart from that, the guide recommends advising patients to keep a pain and symptom related diary so that diagnosis is made easier. Communication should be kept open and frank to fully understand symptoms, and this should be followed by an abdominal and/or pelvic exam.

NICE: Don’t delay diagnosis

According to NICE, women have to wait an average of 7.5 years from the time they visit a doctor to when they finally get a diagnosis. In general, it takes anywhere from four to 10 years for many women to learn what condition they actually have and get the correct treatment. This guide aims at decreasing this period and raising awareness among doctors about the importance of a timely diagnosis as delayed diagnosis leads to a progression of the condition and prolonged pain in the patient.

According to Professor Mark Baker who is the Director for the Centre for Guidelines at NICE, endometriosis isn’t an easy condition to diagnose, as the symptoms vary from one woman to the next, and there aren’t any endometriosis specific symptoms. The guide hopes to help make it easier for doctors, especially GPs make a diagnosis as fast as possible by recommending diagnostic procedures like MRI, ultrasound and testing serum CA125 levels.

Effective symptom management

The NICE guide is clear that endometriosis has no permanent cure or treatment. Instead, pain is managed with several types of drugs that include analgesics and hormonal treatments. Additionally, surgical procedures, particularly laparoscopy should be used to remove patches of the offending cells.

The NICE guide published is in hopes that it will help medical professionals who are unsure of how to approach endometriosis make confident decisions. In addition to placing the guidelines up in full, they also have an interactive flowchart that will no doubt break down the diagnostics and treatment process, making it easier. MIMS

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