Signs and symptoms of endometriosis, the condition Alexa Chung and Lena Dunham suffer from

Alexa Chung has opened up about her endometriosis diagnosis [Photo: Getty]

Alexa Chung has been praised for sharing her endometriosis battle on social media.

The 35-year-old model and designer revealed on Instagram to reveal she has been suffering from the agonising condition.

Sharing an image of her in a hospital corridor, the fashion icon wrote: "I don't want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member, but here I am. #endometriosisclub #lifelongmembership sorryifyouhaveittooitsucks #endometriosisawareness”

The post, which has more than more than 58K likes, sparked an outpouring of support from other of women suffering from the same condition.

“I was in hospital two weeks ago for the pain. Morphine did the job,” one shared.

“I was diagnosed this year too,” another wrote. “Best wishes to you on your endo journey. I hope you get some relief.”

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Alexa isn’t the only celebrity to open up about their endometriosis battle.

Last year Lena Dunham revealed she had undergone a total hysterectomy after years of suffering pain caused by the condition.

The ‘Girls’ actress has previously opened up about her battle with the condition, which causes tissue behaving like the lining of the womb to grow in other parts of the body.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis the growth of endometrial-like tissue (the lining of the womb/uterus) outside of the uterus.

"Endometriosis is a condition which affects women usually around the age of 30 to 40,” explains Dr Diana Gall from Doctor-4-U.

“The uterus is lined with tissue known as endometrium, but in some women this tissue grows outside of the uterus on the ovaries and fallopian tubes causing painful symptoms which are sometimes chronic,” Dr Gall continues.

“When a woman menstruates, this lining breaks down and is discarded through a bleed, but if this tissue is on the outside of the womb there is nowhere to release the bleed.”

According to recent statistics from Endometriosis UK an estimated one in 10 women of reproductive age in the UK suffer from endometriosis.

And 10% of women worldwide, that’s 17 million women living with the condition.

Signs and symptoms of endometriosis

According to the NHS the symptoms of endometriosis can vary. Some women are badly affected, while others might not have any noticeable symptoms.

For women who do experience symptoms the main sign is likely extreme period pain in your lower tummy or back (pelvic pain.) Periods are also likely to be very heavy.

“Due to the location of the condition, symptoms may feel similar to that of menstrual cramps, however, this type of pelvic pain is usually more intense with endometriosis and doesn't just occur during periods,” explains Dr Gall.

“A woman who has developed endometriosis may be experiencing more painful and heavier periods that may be accompanied with nausea, fatigue and changes in bowel movements,” she continues.

“It's also common to have pain during and after sex.”

According to Dr Gall there are many reasons why you may be experiencing these symptoms and some may confuse the symptoms with another condition, like IBS.

Struggling to conceive can also be a potential indication of endometriosis.

“Usually the prompt to visit their GP is if they're having fertility issues, another symptom of the condition,” she explains. “This is when investigations into why they're infertile can often reveal endometriosis.”

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Endometriosis is a condition that affects 10% of women [Photo: Getty]

What causes endometriosis?

No one really knows why certain women suffer from endometriosis, but several theories exist.

“Why endometriosis occurs is not yet fully understood,” explains Dr Gall.

“In some women with the condition it's also common for their other female family members to have endometriosis which suggests it's a hereditary condition, or that you're more likely to develop the condition if your mother or sisters have it.

“There's also a link between endometriosis and women who have a weak immune system, the body cannot fight off endometrial cells that are growing elsewhere in the body due to low immunity,” she continues.

Some women have existing problems with their menstruation which may also be a cause.

“A condition known as retrograde menstruation is the most common cause of endometriosis,” Dr Gall explains.

“Retrograde menstruation occurs when the lining of the womb flows back up through the fallopian tubes instead of being released out of the body and instead grows on other pelvic organs.”

Though it's not uncommon for retrograde menstruation to happen, in fact this occurs in a lot of women, when combined with a low immune system you're at a greater risk of endometriosis as the body has difficulty removing these stray cells.

How is endometriosis treated?

At the moment there is no cure for endometriosis, but there are treatments that can help relieve the symptoms.

“If you have endometriosis, improving your immunity may be key to fighting off endometrial cells and improving your menstrual flow,” Dr Gall says.

“However, this is not a curable condition, and treatment is more about relieving the symptoms as it can be a debilitating condition.”

According to the NHS treatments include: painkillers, certain hormonal contraceptives - including the combined pill, the contraceptive patch, an intrauterine system (IUS), and medicines called gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogues.

“Hormonal therapies such as the contraceptive pill can be a really effective treatment for a lot of women, it reduces the amount of oestrogen production and without this hormone the tissue can't grow and shed,” Dr Gall explains.

“Since taking the hormonal pill a lot of women see a significant reduction in their pain or no pain at all."

In certain cases sufferers can have surgery to cut away patches of endometriosis tissue.

And in severe cases, like Lena Dunham, sufferers can have an operation to remove part or all of the organs affected by endometriosis, such as surgery to remove the womb, hysterectomy.