Endometriosis Diagnosis

Around one in ten women around the world suffer from endometriosis, making it a relatively common disease. And yet, despite this it can often take years to diagnose – in the UK, the average time from onset of symptoms to clinical diagnosis is between eight and ten years.

That means many women are spending up to a decade of their lives suffering from painful symptoms such as pelvic pain, bowel and bladder problems, when they could be receiving treatment. So why does it take so long to diagnose endometriosis?

Endometriosis symptoms can be embarrassing

There is no way that patients can be held accountable for the delay in diagnosis. However, one issue is that the symptoms involved can often be ones that we would prefer not to discuss publicly: pain during sexual intercourse, painful periods, bowel and bladder problems.

Many of the symptoms of endometriosis are considered ‘normal’

Painful periods, for example, are often just accepted as a fact of life, and so women don’t think to mention them to their doctor, just as doctors – including gynaecologists – often don’t think to enquire about menstrual pain.

For many women, bowel problems are also just an uncomfortable part of their daily life, as food intolerance and IBS are often dismissed or overlooked by doctors.

Endometriosis is not well recognised

Even among clinicians, there can be a lack of awareness around endometriosis. As most of the symptoms could also be associated with something else, it often does not occur to doctors or patients that endometriosis could be the cause.

If public awareness of endometriosis were greater, women might be more likely to go to their doctor about their symptoms, and doctors would be more likely to refer them for the n necessary tests. However, there is another problem that causes delays in diagnosis.

There is no simple test for endometriosis

Because the only definitive way to diagnose endometriosis is to establish the presence of ‘endometriotic lesions’ – that is, the existence of womb-like tissue outside of the womb – it can only be confirmed by a surgical procedure.

Unfortunately, within public health services, the surgery involved is categorised as of low importance, which leads to further delays. Add to this the fear many of us have around undergoing surgical procedures, and it’s understandable that many women prefer to stick with the pain they have become used to.

How to get endometriosis diagnosed quickly

If you think you might be experiencing symptoms of endometriosis, here are some ways to ensure you get a diagnosis in good time:

  • Keep a diary of your symptoms: if you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with endometriosis on a regular basis, keep track of them in a diary so that you have something to show the doctor
  • Choose a doctor with the right kind of knowledge: your GP might not be fully familiar with endometriosis and its symptoms, so ask to be referred to a specialist, or book into a private women’s health clinic
  • Be open about your concerns: if you think your symptoms could be attributed to endometriosis, say that outright to your doctor. If they aren’t familiar with the disease, it might not occur to them otherwise

For more information or to book an appointment, please contact us on 07835 736627 to book an appointment.

Causes of pelvic pain

Almost one in four UK women suffer from long term pelvic pain, and yet the problem is often misdiagnosed and the symptoms left untreated.

One major reason for this misdiagnosis is that there are three main causes of pelvic pain in women of reproductive age, and their symptoms often overlap.

However, a new report by The Gut Foundation in Australia, seeks to clarify any confusion around these three conditions. The aim is to promote awareness of the different causes of pelvic pain in women, thus hopefully allowing for faster diagnosis and treatment.

The three major causes of pelvic pain in women are:

  1. Endometriosis
  2. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  3. Chronic Pelvic Pain (CPP)

Below, we’ll outline some of the key points about these three conditions.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis occurs when small amounts of womb tissue becomes attached to organs outside of the womb, including the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder and bowel among others.

The symptoms associated with endometriosis are wide ranging but include:

  • Pelvic pain, particularly before and during menstruation
  • Irregular or heavy periods
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Bladder problems – including difficulty in fully emptying your bladder as well as leaking and painful urination
  • Bowel problems – including painful bowel movements, bleeding, nausea, constipation and bloating
  • Infertility
  • History of haemorrhoids

Treatment for endometriosis most commonly includes surgical excision of the lesions, however other options can include hormone treatments to manage the symptoms.

 

Endometriosis affects around ten per cent of women worldwide, so if you are suffering from any of the symptoms above, it could be worth ruling it out.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

IBS affects around 5-10% of the population and is considered to be a ‘functional disorder’, because it affects the functionality of the intestine. The physical cause of IBS varies from patient to patient and is rarely fully known.

Symptoms of IBS include:

  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Urgent bowel movements
  • Diarrhoea or constipation, sometimes alternating
  • Mucus in bowel movements
  • History of haemorrhoids

Treatment for IBS often focuses on managing the symptoms – avoiding certain foods and drinks that you think cause problems, minimising stress, etc – however there are also pharmaceutical treatments available.

The problem often goes away by itself but can reoccur without apparent reason.

Chronic pelvic pain (CPP)

Chronic pelvic pain is diagnosed when pain in the pelvis or lower abdomen has been present for six months or more. Sometimes it can in itself be a symptom of a disease – like endometriosis – that can then be treated.

Symptoms of chronic pelvic plain include:

  • Any kind of ongoing pelvic pain – mild or severe, spread across the whole pelvic region or in one specific spot
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pain during bowel movements
  • Pain whilst passing urine
  • Pain when sitting down for long periods

If a specific cause of CPP can be found, such as endometriosis or IBS, then treatment will be focused on that condition. However, in many cases a root cause is never found, in which case treatments include pain relief, hormonal treatments or even anti-depressants.

How can diagnosis of these conditions be improved?

The main aim of the Gut Foundation in producing this brochure is to improve understanding, both within the medical community and among the general public about these conditions.

Once physicians understand the differences and commonalities between these three major causes of pelvic pain, diagnosis and treatment should happen faster.

If you suffer from pelvic pain and would like some expert advice, why not call us today on 07835 736627 to book an appointment.

baby scan technology

A new, detailed scan of a baby’s heartbeat within the womb has recently been shared by researchers. The team from the King’s College London, captured the unprecedented images via MRI scans. It is hoped the new screening will help to improve the level of care provided to babies who suffer from congenital heart disease.

Understanding the technology

The technology behind the detailed images works using an MRI machine. It produces several 2D pictures of baby’s heart, taken from numerous angles. These images are then pieced together by sophisticated software.

The software adjusts the images according to the beating of baby’s heart, building up an extraordinary 3D image. This provides a clear view of any abnormalities.

Study proves successful for 11-month old Violet-Vienna

The study into the new baby scan technology has already proved invaluable for babies like now 11-month old Violet-Vienna.

During a routine 20-week ultrasound scan, Violet’s mother, Kirbi-Lea Pettitt, discovered her baby had abnormalities. After taking part in the study to test the new equipment, it was discovered her baby’s main artery from the heart was narrowed. This would have blocked the blood vessel not long after birth. There were also two holes within the heart detected.

However, detecting the issues meant that doctors were able to save baby Violet-Vienna’s life after she was born. Violet was immediately taken away after the birth and placed onto medication to keep the blood vessel open. Then, heart surgery was carried out a week later, and today the 11-month old is thriving.

Without the detailed images produced by the new software and MRI scan, baby Violet-Vienna may not have survived.

The potential benefits it could provide

The initial study carried out shows just how crucial this new baby scan technology could be for baby’s suffering with congenital heart problems. It is thought up to eight babies in 1,000 are born with congenital heart issues in the UK.

After consultant paediatric cardiologist, Professor Reza Razavi, almost lost his child when she was born with a congenital heart problem, he wanted to improve the diagnosis of the condition. It was a powerful motivator, which ultimately led to the development of the new baby scan technology.

Now, it is hoped the technology will be implemented as a routine diagnostic tool for those at high risk of the condition. The 3D images produced are remarkable, and as the studies have already shown, they are successful at pinpointing heart defects in stunning detail. This could lead to much more effective treatment being provided once baby is born. If a treatment plan is already in place, it reduces the risks and increases the chances of survival.

The technology will be easy to adopt into practices which already have MRI screening equipment. The only additional equipment required would be a computer and graphics card.

Overall, this new technology could prove a game changer in the industry. An alternative option could be to use four different ultrasound probes simultaneously, rather than just one, in order to get a clearer picture.

endometriosis treatment in Sutton Coldfield

If you are one of the roughly 10% of women worldwide suffering from endometriosis, you’ll know just how frustrating and painful the condition can be. Seeking a correct diagnosis and effective treatment plan isn’t easy and the condition can have all kinds of implications on your health.

A new review has identified the barriers associated with endometriosis care and the areas which need to be improved. Here, we’ll look at what the review revealed, and the areas needed to be improved in order to diagnose and treat the condition.

Understanding the review

The expert review published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology was carried out by a Society for Women’s Health Research group. It included input from researchers, patients and clinicians on the concerns over barriers to endometriosis care.

At the moment, the condition is under-researched and underfunded, leading to delays in diagnosis and treatment. Numerous barriers were identified in the report including:

  • Lack of awareness as well as knowledge about the condition
  • Treatment option limitations
  • Stigma surrounding women’s pain and menstrual issues
  • A lack of non-invasive diagnosis tools
  • Difficulty getting access to care

The experts behind the review are hoping it will lead to further research into the condition and the development of better diagnosis and treatment options.

More research required into basic biology of endometriosis

In order to speed up diagnosis, experts recommend more research needs to be done into the basic biology of endometriosis. This will allow a much deeper knowledge of the condition and enable professionals to give a more accurate and faster diagnosis.

It will also help with the development of non-invasive diagnostic tools. As it stands, diagnosing the condition can be invasive and this does put women off seeking a diagnosis.

A call for future treatments to be patient-centric

In terms of endometriosis treatment, experts are calling for a more patient-centric approach. The current treatments available do not work for all women, and if they do, the relief is sometimes only temporary.

The treatments available also largely focus on managing pain and other symptoms. A good example is the removal of endometrial lesions. These lesions are often removed in the hope of eliminating pain, as well as reducing the chances of infertility. However, the actual link between lesions and these types of symptoms isn’t fully understood. So, removing them won’t necessarily eliminate the pain, and if it does there’s a chance that pain could come back.

In order to improve endometriosis care, experts are claiming a patient-centric approach is key. Instead of focusing on just one symptom at a time, the treatments provided should instead be focused around the patient as a whole. They should also be provided by a team of experts in medical management, laparoscopy, physical therapy and pain education.

Endometriosis can be an incredibly painful and debilitating condition and this new report shows just how much improvement is needed within its treatment and diagnosis. More research needs to be carried out to understand the biology of the condition and to develop better, faster diagnosis procedures.

premature birth risk

A new test has successfully been developed by scientists from the University of California San Francisco, which can accurately detect a woman’s risk of preeclampsia or premature birth. It is believed detecting the risks early gives doctors the ability to treat the problem before it leads to serious complications later on.

Premature birth is currently known to be the leading cause of death in children younger than five. It’s become an increasing problem, leading scientists to search for a solution. This new test is a revolutionary step to preventing both preeclampsia and premature births.

What is the new test for preeclampsia risk?

The new test has been designed to detect early risks of preeclampsia or premature birth from as little as 10 weeks into the pregnancy. It screens an impressive 25 biomarkers of immune system activation and inflammation. The test also looks at the protein levels which are crucial for the development of the placenta.

It has impressively proven to be 80% accurate at detecting the risk of preterm birth, and almost 90% accurate at detecting preeclampsia.

How was it developed?

This revolutionary test was developed after researchers looked at blood sample results from 400 women during the second trimester of their pregnancy. They then compared the results between the women who went on to give birth full term, between 32 and 36 weeks and women who gave birth earlier than 32 weeks.

Initially, the researchers analysed 60 different growth and immune factors, before narrowing it down to the final 25 factors.

Can it prevent all premature births?

Although the test does have an 80% chance of detecting premature birth risk, it is worth noting that it will not necessarily prevent all cases. The scientists claim it can prevent some premature births and help to identify risk factors.

So, while it may detect risk factors, enabling treatment to be sought early on, there is no guarantee it will eliminate the risk of premature birth completely.

How does it differ to existing tests?

There is currently a test already offered to detect the risk of premature birth. However, it is typically designed to be used later on in the pregnancy. The new test developed can be used as early as 10 weeks into the pregnancy. So, it has the potential to identify the risk long before complications occur.

The existing test also only detects potential risks of spontaneous premature births, while the new test also identifies indicated premature births, as well as preeclampsia. Then there’s the cost difference. The existing test is known to be expensive, a cost not all pregnant women can afford. The new test, however, has been designed to be affordable for everyone. This is especially important because, during their research, the scientists discovered women on low incomes were often at a higher risk of premature birth, along with women over the age of 40.

Overall, this new test is an exciting development and could prove successful in preventing premature births and complications from preeclampsia. It isn’t set to be offered by the NHS anytime soon, so you will need to book a private screening if you want to undergo it.

In recent years, there has been an increased number of children diagnosed with autism, causing experts to question whether ultrasound scans could be behind it. However, after carrying out a study, it appears there is no link between ultrasound pregnancy scans and autism.

The results, published within JAMA Paediatrics, showed children who are diagnosed with autism, had fewer ultrasound scans on average. This provides peace of mind to pregnant women who may be concerned about the effects ultrasound scans have on their baby.

Understanding the results of the study

The results of the study carried out by scientists at the Boston University School of Medicine and the Boston Medical Center, should prove reassuring to parents. It was carried out to determine whether the rise in the number of ultrasound scans could be a contributing factor in the increased autism diagnosis rate.

After comparing the number and energy of ultrasound scans used on children diagnosed with autism and those who are not autistic, it was revealed those with autism actually had less exposure to ultrasound scans. It is known, however, that ultrasound has the potential to heat up the tissue. This, in turn, can cause damage, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy.

There have been studies carried out on animals which have suggested ultrasound can impact the developing brain. In a study carried out on mice, for example, it was discovered ultrasound exposure within the womb caused them to be less social. There have also been studies which have shown children are more likely to be left-handed after exposure to ultrasound. However, in terms of autism, the majority of cases do not appear to be linked to ultrasound scans in pregnancy.

Deeper ultrasound scans could increase the risk

Although largely reassuring, the study did show that deeper ultrasound scans could increase the risk of autism. One of the main reasons deeper ultrasound scans are needed relate to excess abdominal fat. Therefore, weight management could prove to be a successful way to minimise the risks.

Age could also be a contributing factor, as studies show mothers of children diagnosed with autism appear to be over the age of 35. As it stands, researchers aren’t quite sure what these results mean, and further studies will be required to determine the numerous factors associated with autism.

Private scans should not be conducted “just for fun”

Although it has largely been discovered that ultrasound scans do not directly increase the risk of autism, experts still advise against having additional scans carried out for fun. It is known excess levels of ultrasound can negatively impact brain development, so logically, the more scans you have, the greater the risk.

Private scans can prove crucial for those worried about the health of their baby. However, patients considering having more than one additional scan purely for the photo memories they provide, should reconsider.

In conclusion, standard ultrasound scans do not appear to increase the risk of autism. However, additional research is required to determine the true risk factors behind the condition. Patients should also be wary of undergoing too many private scans, especially if they are deeper ultrasound scans.