Northern Ireland

Endometriosis clinic 'needed in Northern Ireland'

Abdominal pain Image copyright SPL
Image caption Endometriosis affects 6 to 10% of women in their reproductive years

Stormont Health Minister Edwin Poots has been urged to build a centre dedicated to treating a painful gynaecological condition.

Up to 2,000 women in Northern Ireland are thought to suffer from a severe form of endometriosis.

As many as one in ten women of child-bearing age have it, and a further one in ten of those have the severe form,

Mr Poots is due to attend a conference organised to make the case for a specialist clinic.

Image caption Robyn Acheson said more awareness of endometriosis was needed

The minister agreed to attend after meeting a number of women who described how endometriosis had affected them.

One of those women is Robyn Acheson, who described the pain as being "like a rusty hook dragged around inside you".

"Everything you do, no matter how you stand or sit, makes it worse - it just completely takes over," she said.

"Statistics show that one in 10 women have endometriosis - that's the same amount as diabetes, but while everyone knows what diabetes is and how to treat it, no-one knows about endometriosis.

"Having a centre would not only raise its profile, but would also help those of us who suffer and their families."

'Unbearable pain'

Campaigners claim the lack of a clear strategy to diagnose and treat women with severe endometriosis is leading to unnecessary suffering, wastage within the health service and even infertility if it is not diagnosed in time.

Dr Pamela Bell of the Pain Alliance of Northern Ireland said a dedicated service could be set up "quickly and cost-effectively".

"Our key consideration is speeding up the time it takes to achieve a diagnosis, as there is a serious problem with misdiagnosis leading to delays in treatment," she said.

"The often tragic outcome of that delay is the fact that many women are unable to have children by the time diagnosis is made and treatment provided.

"In tandem with that, many women suffer unbearable pain which has a massive impact on their lives, their relationships and their careers.

"Severe endometriosis is a terrible affliction, but we can make real strides in its diagnosis and treatment, and we are hopeful that the positive, listening approach we have met from the department and the Health and Social Care Board so far will be matched by action."

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