A support group has been started to offer “a lifeline” for people affected by endometriosis in Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge.

One in 10 women in the UK - about 1.5 million - are living with the long-term and debilitating gynaecological condition, according to charity Endometriosis UK.

It can affect any woman or girl of a childbearing age but the charity said it takes an average of seven-and-a-half years to diagnose.

Endometriosis UK is seeking new members for a recently launched support group based in Romford, which is led by volunteers who also suffer from the condition.

Group leader and Barking and Dagenham councillor Sanchia Alasia was diagnosed with stage four endometriosis in 2010.

She said: “Support groups are a lifeline for women with endometriosis.

“The condition can impact on people’s lives in so many ways – chronic pain, fatigue, depression, problems with sexual relationships, infertility – which is why it’s so important to share experiences, knowledge and self-help techniques.”

Endometriosis, the cause of which is unknown, is a condition where the endometrial cells lining the womb migrate to other parts of the body.

Each month, these cells react in the same way to those in the womb, building up and then breaking down and bleeding, but unlike the cells in the womb, this blood has no way to escape.

Symptoms vary in intensity, with some women enduring severe pain while others have no pain but may experience fertility issues - or sometimes both.

The Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge support group plans to get together bi-monthly, with meetings open to anybody affected by the condition.

Guest speakers will offer information on a wide-range of issues related to the condition and also seek to raise awareness about it.

The charity offers a network of services and free information through its website, ranging from a free confidential national helpline, UK-wide support groups, an online support group and an advocacy service.

Email romfordgroup@endometriosis-uk.org for more information on how to join the group.

Visit www.endometriosis-uk.org to find out more about the condition.