Endometriosis and delays with diagnosis

An issue that often arises in medical negligence claims is where there has been an unnecessary delay with the diagnosis of a particular condition or illness leading to a less positive outcome. However, some conditions are not always straightforward to diagnose such as endometriosis as the symptoms can vary considerably and may have arisen for many other reasons.

1 in 10 women in the UK may suffer with endometriosis and experience debilitating pain, heavy periods and infertility. It can affect all women and girls of childbearing age, regardless of their race or their ethnicity. It can have a big impact on a sufferer’s life and for some women may lead to feelings of depression.

Endometriosis is a condition where cells similar to the ones in the womb lining are found elsewhere in the body, such as the reproductive organs, bowel and bladder. These cells form when hormones are released during a woman’s monthly cycle and then break down when pregnancy does not occur. These cells, which are not in the womb lining, are unable to leave the body as a period which can lead to the formation of scar tissue, inflammation and pain. The main symptoms include:

  • Painful lower abdomen or back (pelvic pain), which is usually worse when menstruating
  • Period pain that stops participation in normal activities
  • Pain during or after sexual intercourse
  • Pain when urinating or defecating during menstruation
  • Feelings of nausea, constipation, diarrhoea or blood in urine during menstruation
  • Difficulties in conceiving
  • Heavy periods

If someone believes they have symptoms of endometriosis they should consult their GP who may perform an abdominal and vaginal examination. The GP may recommend treatment if they suspect the condition including painkillers, hormone medications and contraceptives. If the symptoms persist, this may lead to a referral to a gynaecologist for further tests, such as an ultrasound scan or laparoscopy. Ultimately, surgery may be required to remove endometriosis tissue.

In October 2020 the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Endometriosis published the findings of its enquiry. It found an average wait for diagnosis was 8 years and called on all UK Governments to commit to a series of support measures for those with endometriosis including a commitment to reduce average diagnosis times to 4 years or less by 2025, and a year or less by 2030.

If you have suffered complications arising from delayed or misdiagnosed conditions, please contact our specialist medical negligence team to speak directly to a qualified and experienced lawyer.

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