As March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, Bina Mehta, Pharmacist at Boots, shares her advice on the differences between endometriosis and period pain. Endometriosis can present in very similar ways to period pain, so it can be hard to tell the difference, but there is help and advice available for women who think they may have the condition.
Bina said: "Endometriosis is a condition where tissue, similar to the lining of the womb, grows in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. It can affect women of any age and is a long-term condition that can have a significant impact on everyday life.
"Period pain is common, and most women will experience it at some point in their lives as a normal part of the menstrual cycle. Period pain happens when the muscular wall of the womb tightens and is usually felt as muscle cramps in the tummy, and pain which may also be felt in the back and thighs.
"It can be difficult to diagnose endometriosis because the symptoms can vary considerably – some women experience severe symptoms whilst others may not, and their symptoms may be similar to other conditions including period pain. Shared common symptoms of both conditions include pelvic and lower tummy pain. However, severe period pain, that stops you doing your normal activities, could be a sign of endometriosis and you should speak to your GP as soon as possible.
"Other common symptoms of endometriosis include pain in the lower tummy or back, which is usually worse during your period, 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. Some women may also have trouble getting pregnant.
“When it comes to managing period pain, usually taking pain relief medicine such as ibuprofen or paracetamol can help, if it's suitable for you. There are also products available designed to help to target period pain. If you think you may have endometriosis you should visit your GP. Whilst there is no cure, there are treatments that can help ease the symptoms, including pain relief medicines and hormone medicines. If your GP suspects endometriosis they will discuss options with you to help you decide which is best for you. In some cases, women may require surgery to cut away patches of endometriosis tissue or to remove all or part of part of the organs affected by endometriosis.
"If you have a concern about your periods or want advice about which pain relief may be suitable for you, please speak to your local Boots pharmacy team or to your GP."