ENDOMETRIOSIS is a painful condition said to affect around one in 10 women.
The lifelong disorder is caused when tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow outside of the uterus.
There is no cure as of yet, and the usual treatment includes hormonal therapy or surgery to remove the growths.
But for many women, the agony returns afterwards and can be chronic and persistent.
Scientists now claim to have come up with a solution that could help ease the pain for millions.
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, US, say that Botox injections could freeze pelvic pain for up to a year.
The treatment – better known for smoothing out lines and wrinkles – works by obstructing nerve signals to prevent the targeted muscles from contracting.
Researchers carried out a small study on 13 women with the condition who had undergone surgery and experienced pain for at least two years.
Symptoms of endometriosis
Endometriosis is where cells like the ones in the lining of the womb (uterus) are found elsewhere in the body.
Each month, these cells react in the same way to those in the womb – building up and then breaking down and bleeding. Unlike the cells in the womb that leave the body as a period, this blood has no way to escape.
That can lead to infertility, fatigue, bowel and bladder problems, as well as really heavy, painful periods.
It affects one in ten women in the UK.
- Painful, heavy, or irregular periods
- Pain during or after sex
- Chronic pain
- Painful bowel movements
The cause of endometriosis is unknown and there is no definite cure.
According to Endometriosis UK, it takes over seven years on average for women to finally receive a diagnosis.
It’s estimated that up to 50 per cent of infertile women has the condition.
Source: Endometriosis UK
The women, aged between 21 and 51, had botulinum toxin injected into the areas affected by muscle spasms, especially the pelvic floor.
A month later all participants chose to receive the injections on a monthly basis for at least four months – and reported remarkable results.
All of them said they had fewer to no muscle spasms during their follow up treatment, while 11 of the 13 said their pain was mild or gone entirely.
More than half of the group said they had been able to reduce their use of pain medication.
Previous research has suggested that Botox may help women experiencing other types of chronic pelvic pain, but this treatment had not been studied in women with endometriosis.
Dr Pamela Stratton, a gynecologist and scientist at NINDS who co-led the study, said: “The botulinum toxin injections were incredibly effective in decreasing pain levels, as well as patients’ use of pain medications, including opioid.
“Many of the women in our study reported that the pain had a profound effect on their quality of life, and this treatment may be able to help them get their lives back.”
Co-author Dr Barbara Karp, a neurologist and program director at NINDS, added: “We know that many doctors are using botulinum toxin to help their patients, but everyone uses slightly different techniques and methods, including different brands of toxin and various doses.
“This study will begin to provide rigour to help ensure standardised protocols and treatment in pelvic pain.”
The experts note that the study was small and so larger clinical studies are needed to confirm the current findings.
In addition, future research will focus on the mechanisms underlying chronic pelvic pain and better understanding of ways in which Botox may help treat those disorders.
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It comes after scientists claim to have discovered the “cause” of endometriosis – raising hopes for a cure for the agonising condition.
Researchers found a type of white blood cell, called macrophages, which has undergone changes could be the prime cause.
The team, from Warwick and Edinburgh universities, ran various tests on mice and say that targeting the altered cells could be a novel treatment.
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