A LIFE-changing endometriosis drug could offer hope to millions who suffer with the illness, experts have claimed.
A drug that is currently used to treat rare metabolic conditions in children is now being trialled on endometriosis patients.
Dichloroacetate helps to control lactate levels, which have found to be at high levels in patients suffering with endometriosis.
Experts at the University of Edinburgh are currently conducting a trial with 30 women as the search continues for an effective endometriosis treatment.
Endometriosis is a chronic condition which occurs when tissue from the lining of the womb is found outside of the womb – in areas of the body including the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, the abdomen and the bladder.
The exact cause of the condition isn't known, but it's thought it could be hereditary or due to environmental factors – namely the presence of dioxins in the environment.
Meanwhile, other experts believe it could be caused by a process called retrograde menstruation, which is when the womb lining flows backwards through the Fallopian tubes into the abdomen, instead of leaving the body as a period.
Endometriosis can sometimes cause damage to the Fallopian tubes or ovaries, leading to fertility problems – the conditions effects 176 million women worldwide.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis and how is it treated?
Symptoms of endometriosis can vary, but the most common include painful or heavy periods, pain during and following sex, bleeding between periods, pain in the lower abdomen and difficulty conceiving.
Endometriosis can also cause sufferers to be constantly tired, and experience discomfort when using the toilet.
How is it currently treated?
There is no cure for endometriosis, but it can be managed, and there are a number of approaches for doing this.
Some women are prescribed pain medications which target inflammation, such as ibuprofen and naproxen.
Meanwhile, others are given hormonal treatment to limit the production of oestrogen, which encourages endometriosis tissue to grow.
These treatments include oral contraceptives including the combined pill, or intrauterine systems (more commonly known as the coil).
However, some women, like Loose Women's Andrea McLean, opt for surgery.
The TV presenter a hysterctomy after she spent five years battling perimenopause – the transitional stage before menopause with unpleasant side-effects including hot flushes and heart palpitations.
Actress Lena Dunham, 31, also revealed that she’s had a full hysterectomy after suffering from endometriosis – but still hopes to have children.
One woman who suffers with the condition told the BBC that dichloroacetate has helped her condition.
Jessica, 24 has taken part in the 12-week drug trial and said the pain she suffers had "decreased immensely".
She said: "I was able to go and take the dog out and do six-mile walks – and do things that on a daily basis I would not do, or if I did try and do them I would be in a lot of pain.
"It's definitely changed my life so far, having been on this treatment after so many failed treatments and medications and operations."
The drug is non-hormonal, unlike other treatments currently in use for the condition.
A lot of women who have endometriosis experience fertility issues and many don't want to take hormones as it could risk their chances of getting pregnant.
When testing the drug the experts found that the pelvic walls of women with the condition differ from those without the disease.
When the cells were treated with dichloroacetate they returned to normal behavioural patterns.
Leading the study, professor of gynaecology and reproductive sciences Andrew Horne said: "Clearly endometriosis affects a young female population many of whom are wanting to try and get pregnant, so they don't want to take hormones; they don't want to take a contraceptive. So this would be a very different approach."
He added that the findings from the Edinburgh study are "exciting" and said the team is now hoping to roll the trial out to 400 volunteers.
Current treatments for endometriosis include hormone drugs or painkillers.
Other women also have surgery – including full hysterectomies, to help with the condition.
Experts at the University of Oxford are also working on unlocking genetic links to the condition.
Prof Krina Zondervan says endometriosis is not just one single condition,
The Oxford team have also discovered links to other conditions such as migraines, back pain and asthma.
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