Tuesday, March 6, 2007
The diagnosis of a crippling gynaecological condition which affects 2million British women must be speeded up, a charity has urged.
It takes an average of eight years to diagnose endometriosis, which can have a devastating effect on a sufferer's quality of life.
The condition is stagnating in 'misdiagnosis, ignorance and misunderstanding', according to charity Endometriosis UK.
It occurs when cells similar to those in the womb lining are found outside it, creating painful inflammation, adhesions and cysts.
What causes it is still unclear.
Endometriosis can affect women at any age and symptoms include severe pain, infertility, pain during sexual intercourse, bowel and bladder problems and exhaustion.
The charity has written to all 212 hospital trusts and health boards asking them to participate in a survey of the current healthcare provision for women with the condition.
To date, 79 have replied and the provisional results showed just one in seven gynaecology departments runs clinics specifically for endometriosis.
The charity is hoping it will find out if the clinics need to be spread more evenly around the country.
Robert Music, the charity's chief executive, said doctors should consider the incurable condition when diagnosing patients with matching symptoms.
He said: 'The symptoms are varied and can sometimes be indicative of other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, pelvic pain, fibroids and pelvic inflammatory disease.
'The similarities – plus the fact that women can find it difficult to discuss their symptoms with their GP – make diagnosis difficult and often delayed.'
The survey results have been released as part of Endometriosis Week, along with a hardhitting poster campaign aimed at raising awareness among younger women.
The charity is also calling on employers to be more aware of the condition as it costs British business £2.8billion a year in days lost through sick leave.