Why does endometriosis take so long to diagnose?

Endometriosis affects one in ten women, but can take a long time to diagnose. There are three main reasons for that delay.

Why does endometriosis take so long to diagnose image

The three most common reasons for a delay in diagnosis are:

  1. believing that symptoms are normal
  2. mistaking symptoms for another condition
  3. taking medication which controls the symptoms

“It’s normal”

'It's normal' diagram

Delays can happen if a person or their doctor believes that their symptoms are no different from ‘normal period pain’. This idea might come from friends or family members, particularly if they have undiagnosed endometriosis. It’s not normal to experience pain that affects the ability to get on with normal daily activities.

“It’s Something Else”

'It's Something Else' diagram

The symptoms of endometriosis are many and varied and are often mistaken for a long list of other conditions. Referral to specialists other than a gynaecologist or an endometriosis specialist lead to the longest delay in diagnosis.

“It’s Controlled”

'It's controlled' diagram

Taking pain medication, oral contraceptives or antidepressants can reduce symptoms even if they’re not being taken for endometriosis. This can make getting a diagnosis more difficult. Symptoms being controlled isn’t the same as the disease going away, but many people decide that controlling symptoms with medication is preferable to surgery. Read more about how endometriosis is treated.