Signs and symptoms of endometriosis as Alexa Chung says women are being ‘dismissed’

·4-min read
Alexa Chung, pictured in Cannes, has revealed she believes women with endometriosis are being dismissed. (Getty Images)
Alexa Chung feels women living with endometriosis are being 'dismissed'. (Getty Images)

Alexa Chung says women are being "dismissed, misdiagnosed and left floundering” before they get tested for endometriosis.

The fashion designer, presenter and model, 39, received treatment for the painful condition while a cyst was being removed.

In a piece for British Vogue, she details her and other women’s experiences with endometriosis and with medical professionals.

"The condition is shrouded in mystery and misinformation, and frequently mishandled by doctors. There’s no cure," the former T4 presenter says.

"Often sufferers end up going back for surgery after surgery. Shockingly, there are stories of some doctors suggesting that women have a baby to suppress their symptoms."

Chung added that when she had told a gynaecologist she had been "unable to leave a bathroom stall" due to heavy flow at an airport, the doctor asked if she knew what periods are.

"This kind of experience is unfortunately not an anomaly. It can take an average of eight years to diagnose endometriosis," she says.

"Those who have it often find themselves dismissed, misdiagnosed and left floundering before getting on waiting lists for a laparoscopy: a type of keyhole surgery used to seek out pesky endometrial cells, which is currently the only way to know for sure if someone has the condition."

Alexa Chung, pictured, has previously shared her battle with endometriosis. (Getty Images)
Alexa Chung has previously discussed her endometriosis diagnosis. (Getty Images)

It isn't the first time the model and designer has shared her own experiences of endometriosis, having previously revealed on Instagram she had been suffering from the agonising condition.

Sharing an image of her in a hospital corridor, the model wrote: "I don't want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member, but here I am. #endometriosisclub #lifelongmembership sorryifyouhaveittooitsucks #endometriosisawareness"

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis the growth of endometrial-like tissue (the lining of the womb/uterus) outside of the uterus.

"Endometriosis is a condition which affects women usually around the age of 30 to 40," Dr Diana Gall from Doctor-4-U previously told Yahoo UK.

"The uterus is lined with tissue known as endometrium, but in some women this tissue grows outside of the uterus on the ovaries and fallopian tubes causing painful symptoms which are sometimes chronic.

"When a woman menstruates, this lining breaks down and is discarded through a bleed, but if this tissue is on the outside of the womb there is nowhere to release the bleed."

According to recent statistics from Endometriosis UK, an estimated one in 10 women of reproductive age in the UK suffer from it. And 10% of women live with the condition worldwide, the same as 176 million across the globe.

Signs and symptoms of endometriosis

According to the NHS the symptoms of endometriosis can vary. Some women are badly affected, while others might not have any noticeable symptoms.

For women who do experience symptoms the main sign is likely extreme period pain in your lower tummy or back (pelvic pain.) Periods are also likely to be very heavy.

Some other common symptoms include:

  • pain in your lower tummy or back (pelvic pain) – usually worse during your period

  • period pain that stops you doing your normal activities

  • pain during or after sex

  • pain when peeing or pooing during your period

  • feeling sick, constipation, diarrhoea, or blood in your pee or poo during your period

  • difficulty getting pregnant

Endometriosis is a condition that affects 10% of women. (Getty Images)
Endometriosis is a condition that affects 10% of women worldwide. (Getty Images)

What causes endometriosis?

No one really knows why certain women suffer from endometriosis, but several theories exist.

"In some women with the condition it's also common for their other female family members to have endometriosis which suggests it's a hereditary condition, or that you're more likely to develop the condition if your mother or sisters have it," Dr Gall explains.

"There's also a link between endometriosis and women who have a weak immune system, the body cannot fight off endometrial cells that are growing elsewhere in the body due to low immunity," she continues.

Some women have existing problems with their menstruation which may also be a cause.

"A condition known as retrograde menstruation is the most common cause of endometriosis," Dr Gall explains.

"Retrograde menstruation occurs when the lining of the womb flows back up through the fallopian tubes instead of being released out of the body and instead grows on other pelvic organs."

How is endometriosis treated?

At the moment there is no cure for endometriosis, but there are treatments that can help relieve the symptoms.

According to the NHS treatments include:

  • painkillers

  • certain hormonal contraceptives - including the combined pill

  • the contraceptive patch

  • an intrauterine system (IUS)

  • medicines called gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogues.

In certain cases those living with the condition can have surgery to cut away patches of endometriosis tissue.

And in severe cases you can have an operation to remove part or all of the organs affected by endometriosis, such as surgery to remove the womb, a hysterectomy.

For information on how to get support, visit Endometriosis UK.

Additional reporting PA.

Watch: Endometriosis: Women in severe pain put off GP visits because of 'medical gaslighting' and thinking pain is normal