Endometriosis: Silent suffering

All Woman

FOR years many women have suffered from endometriosis, and despite the prevalence of the disease, there is still little awareness and recognition by government and society of the profound impact on these women and their loved ones.

Women still battle with frequent misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis, as it takes an average eight to 10 years for a woman to be properly diagnosed.

What do you know about this issue that causes women silent suffering?

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (the endometrial stroma and glands, which should only be located inside the uterus) is found elsewhere in the body.

It is generally acknowledged that an estimated 10 per cent of all women during their reproductive years (from the onset of menstruation to menopause) are affected by endometriosis. This equates to 176 million women throughout the world, who have to deal with the symptoms of endometriosis during the prime years of their lives.

Where is affected?

Endometriosis lesions can be found anywhere in the pelvic cavity:

• On the ovaries

• The Fallopian tubes

• On the pelvic side-wall (peritoneum)

• The uterosacral ligaments,

• The cul-de-sac,

• The Pouch of Douglas

• The rectal-vaginal septum.

In addition, it can be found in:

•Caesarian-section scars

•Laparoscopy/laparotomy scars

•On the bladder

•On the bowel

•On the intestines, colon, appendix, and rectum.

But these locations are not so common. In even more rare cases, endometriosis has been found inside the vagina, inside the bladder, on the skin, in the lungs, spine, and brain.

Symptoms

The most common symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain. The pain often correlates to the menstrual cycle, but a woman with endometriosis may also experience pain that doesn't correlate to her cycle — this is what makes this condition so unpredictable and frustrating.

For many women, the pain of endometriosis is so severe and debilitating that it impacts their lives in significant ways.

Endometriosis can also cause scar tissue and adhesions to develop that can distort a woman's internal anatomy. In advanced stages, internal organs may fuse together, causing a condition known as a “frozen pelvis”. This is not common, but it does happen.

It is estimated that 30-40 per cent of women with endometriosis may not be able to have children.

Here are five other facts about the condition you should know

1. Possible signs of endometriosis include chronic pelvic pain, bowel or urinary disorders, painful intercourse, infertility and pregnancy loss, painful menstruation, gastrointestinal and urinary tract distress and rectal pain.

2. There is no known cure for endometriosis although there are different treatments available to improve the severity of symptoms so that those affected can have a better quality of life.

3. Endometriosis is actually surprisingly common, with at least one in 10 women and girls, usually of reproductive age, affected and suffering with crippling pain in the prime of their lives.

4. Endometriosis can destroy the uterus, ovaries and Fallopian tubes, as well as cause irreversible damage to other parts of the body such as the lungs, liver, heart, eyes, kidneys, brain, bladder, bowel, diaphragm, nerves and muscles. It also shares many features with non-fatal cancers.

5. Pre-teens and teenagers are especially susceptible to misdiagnosis, although if not treated properly, this condition can result in severe medical consequences.

— Some information from The World Endometriosis Society.

For the month of March — Endometriosis Awareness Month — we will bring you stories about the condition, as well as contributions from the brave women who are fighting the battle.

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