MILLIONS of endometriosis sufferers are plagued by suicidal thoughts, new research has revealed.
Half of women with the agonising condition, caused when tissue from the womb starts to grow on other pelvic organs, admit relying on highly addictive painkillers.
Most of the 13,500 people who took part in the BBC study said endometriosis had affected their education, career, sex life and mental health.
MPs have now announced they will launch an inquiry into women's experiences of the chronic condition.
As well as extremely heavy periods, endometriosis can cause debilitating pain and sometimes infertility.
Although common - affecting 1.5million women in the UK, its symptoms can often be ignored or misdiagnosed.
Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and clinical director of Patient.info, previously told The Sun Online: "One of the biggest challenges with getting a diagnosis of endometriosis is that the symptoms may be mistaken for other problems."
One of those who took part in the study - the biggest of its kind - was Bethany Willis, from Essex.
The 19-year-old began suffering with symptoms when she was just nine, but it took her years to get diagnosed - despite her mum and grandmother also having the condition.
She told the BBC: "The pain is like barbed wire wrapped around your insides and someone's pulling it while at the same time an animal is trying to eat its way through you."
At one point, the pain became so unbearable that she took an overdose.
The pain is like barbed wire wrapped around your insides and someone's pulling it while at the same time an animal is trying to eat its way through youBethany Willis
Bethany said: "I texted my boyfriend and said goodbye. I was ready to end my life there and then because of the pain."
Another sufferer, Tayla Marshall, from Northamptonshire, has to rely on pain relief to cope with her symptoms and is now addicted to strong opioid medication.
The 24-year-old said: "I worry every day about my opioid intake. I take 50ml of morphine sulfate, Fentanyl patches, Naproxen and 30mg of amitriptyline and although I'm not addicted in my mind, my body is physically dependant on this now."
She has had multiple operations, two chemically-induced menopauses and is even considering having a hysterectomy when she is 30.
Tayla said she has six years to try for a family - but her condition leaves her unable to be intimate because she is often dosed up on painkillers.
The charity Endometriosis UK, which helped gather the women's testimonies, said failing to treat those with the condition is costing the government £8.2billion a year.
It has called on the NHS to "wake up" and "properly implement" NICE guidelines to ensure people are getting the right level of care.
CEO Emma Cox said: "Currently the diagnosis time for endometriosis is an unacceptable 7.5 years on average - this must come down.
“The potentially devastating impact this condition can have on people’s physical and mental health cannot be overstated.
"Without investment in research, a reduction in diagnosis time and better access to pain management, women will continue to face huge barriers in accessing the right treatment at the right time.”
Minister for Women’s Health, Caroline Dinenage, said: "Too often across society women's bodies are seen as an inconvenience, with their symptoms and health concerns not taken seriously enough.
Heavy periods and 4 other signs of endometriosis – and how to treat it
1. Heavy periods
One of the main symptoms is painful periods – but the pain is often more severe than ‘normal’ period pain, and lasts from a few days before the period until the end of the period.
Many women also have low tummy and pelvic pain, which may be worse before and during a period but can be there all the time.
2. Pain during and after sex
Painful sex – especially during deep penetration – is also a common symptom of endometriosis. This can last for several hours after sex.
Penetration and other movements related to sex can pull and stretch endometrial tissue, especially if it has grown behind the vagina or lower uterus.
3. Difficulty conceiving
Endometriosis can also make it harder for you to get pregnant.
If you have endometriosis and are trying to get pregnant without success, it is important that you get help and support so speak to your doctor about being referred to a gynaecologist or a fertility specialist.
4. Bleeding between periods
Spotting between periods might not seem like too bothersome a problem but it can be one of the key signs of endometriosis.
A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology showed premenstrual spotting is the clearest predictor of endometriosis.
5. Pain when you go to the toilet
It can also cause pain when you wee or poo and very occasionally blood in the wee or poo.
You may also experience fatigue, diarrhoea, constipation, bloating or nausea.
MORE ON ENDOMETRIOSIS
"Thankfully, awareness of endometriosis and other painful and debilitating menstrual conditions is increasing – but there is still a long way to go.”
Centre for Mental Health chief executive, Sarah Hughes, added: "Women living with endometriosis deserve support for their mental health as well as for the condition itself and its many effects on a woman’s life.
"Health services need to wake up to the hidden and unspoken emotional pain too many women experience without the help they need to manage such a poorly understood and distressing condition.”
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