More than 100 women and girls were hospitalised at the Royal Berkshire Trust last year with a chronic condition that can cause debilitating painful periods.

Charity Endometriosis UK says many women are left to suffer with the disease because their pain is not taken seriously, and called on the NHS to "wake up to the scale" of the condition.

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NHS Digital data shows Royal Berkshire NHS Trust admitted 105 women and girls to hospital with a main diagnosis of endometriosis in 2018-19.

Of these, 10 (10 per cent) were emergency cases, with patients arriving through A&E or rushed to hospital after visiting their GP.

Endometriosis is a chronic condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows elsewhere in the body, such as around the ovaries.

The tissue sheds in the same way that blood does during the menstrual cycle, but has nowhere to escape to, causing inflammation, pain, and a build-up of scar tissue.

Around 10 per cent of women aged from puberty to menopause are thought to be affected – 1.5 million across the UK – with an estimated cost of £8.2 billion to the economy.

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According to Endometriosis UK, it takes an average time of 7.5 years for women to get a diagnosis.

Chief executive Emma Cox said it was "heartbreaking" that women had to suffer so long, and that more awareness was needed among healthcare practitioners and the general public.

Hospitals across England admitted more than 22,000 patients with the condition last year, 3,000 (13 per cent) of them as an emergency.

Ms Cox said: "Those with endometriosis should be given the help they need, when they need it.

"They shouldn’t be having to go to A&E as they cannot get help for their pain and symptoms elsewhere.

"Many don't even realise the pain they are suffering isn’t normal after years of being told they must have a low pain threshold and to put up with it.

"They may even be told they are making the symptoms up, which has an impact on their confidence and mental health when they are already suffering.

"No one should have to suffer for many years, possibly losing their job and chance to have children, because of endometriosis – yet heartbreakingly it happens all the time."

The average age of patients admitted to Royal Berkshire NHS Trust was 35, with an average hospital stay of 1.3 days.

There is no cure for the disease and it can be difficult to diagnose, but treatments could include painkillers, hormone medicines and contraceptives, and in extreme cases a hysterectomy to remove the womb.

Symptoms of endometriosis

  • Painful, heavy or irregular periods
  • Pelvic pain
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Pain when urinating
  • Pain during or after sex
  • Difficulty getting pregnant
  • Fatigue