As a GP, I see a lot of women who are experiencing painful periods. Sometimes they are nothing to worry about, but in other cases it can be a symptom of a serious problem.
Endometriosis is a common condition where womb tissue grows outside of the womb. It can be found in other parts of the body such as the ovaries or fallopian tubes.
An estimated 1.5 million women in the UK suffer with endometriosis.
The cause of endometriosis is unknown and there is no definite cure. Symptoms can vary dramatically. Some women will experience terrible period pain and below average fertility, others will never notice an issue.
On average it takes 7.5 years for a woman to be diagnosed with endometriosis. This is partly down to the range of symptoms, but is also due to many GPs having a limited knowledge and experience of the disease.
There has also been a lack of good, clear, evidence based guidance, which has led to huge variation in care.
The new NICE guideline gives clear advice about how a woman with suspected endometriosis should be cared for. It details how to make a diagnosis and offer treatment in a timely manner. It also recognises the need to treat women in the right location for them.
For example, some women with mild symptoms are best cared for by their GP. But women with severe experiences will require prompt referral to specialist services. They may also need to be directed towards patient support groups.
I am confident that the new NICE guideline will raise awareness amongst patients and healthcare professionals. And that this will help us to shorten the time it takes to achieve a diagnosis.
The guideline will also enable prompt and appropriate referral and treatment, which should lead to a better quality of life for women who suffer with endometriosis.