Women across Ayrshire are giving their backing a new group for sufferers of endometriosis.

The organisation, which meets once a month, already has 23 members and more than 150 supporters.

Endometriosis is where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

The group, under the auspices of the Endometriosis UK charity, was formed last August by 51-year-old office manager Julie Burns, who has lived with the painful and debilitating condition since she was a teenager.

Their aim is to make more people more aware of what sufferers go through and encourage employers to treat them more sympathetically.

Julie said: "The ladies come to our monthly meetings in Irvine from all over Ayrshire and we already have members and supporters in Ayr.

"There is still a lot of stigma about the condition particularly when it comes to taking time off work.

"We have managed to get NHS Ayrshire and Arran and East Ayrshire Council to sign up to an endometriosis-friendly employee scheme.

"We are also negotiating with South Ayrshire Council and also hope to get North Ayrshire Council on board."

Julie has also persuaded her own bosses at Glasgow Caledonian University to sign up to the scheme.

She says many women have to give up work because employers are unsympathetic when they take time off.

The Stewarton woman added: "Endometriosis affects one in 10 women and is as common as asthma and diabetes

"It can also affect your fertility and result in mental health issues.

"The pain can be quite severe and we know of women who have become addicted to prescription painkillers as a result."

Julie, who is married with two stepchildren, says girls as young as 11 can suffer from the condition.

She added: "Our support group provides a safe place for women to meet and share their experiences.

"Sufferers are currently waiting two years for surgery and having to put their lives on hold as a result."

Endometriosis can be a difficult condition for doctors to detect, says Julie – and it has had a major affect on her own life.

"I had to wait 28 years until I got my diagnosis," she added.

I have had four operations over an 11 year period.

"It can affect your bladder, bowels and even lungs. It is an all over body disease and we are trying to get that recognised.

"We also want to make sure that the new generation of young women don't have to go through what we have suffered in the past."

Anyone seeking help with endometriosis can contact Julie at ayrshiregroup@endometriosis-uk.org.