Women go through a lot of challenges in life and having to live through and work through that challenge is a challenge itself.
Issues ranging from domestic violence to gender inequality to serious health challenges rears its face every time and women are forced to brace up and face these challenges. It is however important to note that women were not built to endure pain as it is generally believed.
Susan Sarandon during her address in the 2011 Endometriosis Foundation of America Blossom Ball said
“When all you know is pain you don’t know that that is not normal. It is not a woman’s lot to suffer, even if we’ve been raised that way.It is not OK to miss a part of your life because of pain and excessive bleeding. It is not OK to be bed-ridden for two-to-three days a month. It is not OK to pain during sex. It is not OK to have major bloating or nausea.”
Therefore today we would be focusing on an health issue that affects women and is a source of pain for some women. And what better health challenge to focus on than one that has its awareness slated for this month.
This issue which is affecting a lot of women in recent times is not a popular topic.
Endometriosis (pronounced as en-do-me-tree-O-sis) is an often painful disorder/condition that occurs when the tissue that makes up the uterine lining (the lining of the womb or uterus) is present on other organs inside your body. This tissue is called the endometrium hence the name endometriosis.
With endometriosis, displaced endometrial tissue continues to act as it normally would i.e. it thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. Because this displaced tissue has no way to exit your body, it becomes trapped. When endometriosis involves the ovaries, cysts called endometriomas may form. The Surrounding tissue can become irritated, eventually developing scar tissue and adhesions — abnormal bands of fibrous tissue that can cause pelvic tissues and organs to stick to each other.
Endometriosis is usually found in the lower abdomen, or pelvis, but can appear anywhere in the body. Women with endometriosis often have lower abdominal pain, pain with periods, or pain with sexual intercourse. Fertility problems also may develop. Fortunately, effective treatments are available.
Stages of endometriosis
Endometriosis has four stages or types. It can be any of the following:
Different factors determine the stage of the disorder. These factors can include the location, number, size, and depth of endometrial implants.
Stage 1: Minimal
In minimal endometriosis, there are small lesions or wounds and shallow endometrial implants on your ovary. There may also be inflammation in or around your pelvic cavity.
Stage 2: Mild
Mild endometriosis involves light lesions and shallow implants on an ovary and the pelvic lining.
Stage 3: Moderate
Moderate endometriosis involves deep implants on your ovary and pelvic lining. There can also be more lesions.
Stage 4: Severe
The most severe stage of endometriosis involves deep implants on your pelvic lining and ovaries. There may also be lesions on your fallopian tubes and bowels.
Age: Women of all ages are at risk for endometriosis. It usually affects women between the ages of 25 and 40, but symptoms can begin at puberty.
Family history: Women with a family members who has endometriosis may have a higher risk of developing the disease.
Pregnancy history: Pregnancy seems to protect women against endometriosis progressing. Women who haven’t had children run a greater risk of developing the disorder. However, endometriosis can still occur in women who’ve had children. This supports the understanding that hormones influence the development and progress of the condition. People with endometriosis are encouraged to have babies earlier, rather than later in life. Pregnancy doesn’t cure endometriosis, but there may be fewer symptoms afterward.
Menstrual history: Issues like shorter cycles, heavier and longer periods, or menstruation that starts at a young age may place people at higher risks.
Causes Of Endometriosis
There are several different ideas of how and why endometriosis happens but nobody really knows what causes endometriosis, and possible causes or factors may be different from person to person.
- Family history: women who have a close relative with the condition are up to 7-10 times more likely to get endometriosis. Also, it is common with twins that both may get endometriosis, particularly if they are identical twins.
- Retrograde (backwards) menstruation: When a woman has a period, the blood flows out of the vagina, but also backwards along the fallopian tubes into the pelvis. In 90% of women, the blood, which will contain endometrial cells is absorbed or broken down and causes no symptoms; however, in women with endometriosis this endometrial tissue starts to grow.
- Metaplasia: the conversion of the normal pelvic tissue into endometriosis. Another idea is that some cells in the body outside of the uterus can change to become the same kind of cells that line the uterus. This is a common explanation for endometriosis at unusual sites like the thumb or knee.
- Another possible explanation is that the cells from the lining of the uterus travel through the blood vessels or through the lymphatic system to reach other organs or body areas.
- Also, endometriosis can spread at the time of surgery. For example, a woman with endometriosis that undergoes a cesarean section could inadvertently have some endometriosis cells attach to the abdominal incision so that she has endometriosis in the scar from the surgery.
Interestingly, nearly all women have some degree of retrograde menstruation, but only a few women will get endometriosis. This may be due to differences in a woman’s immune system.
Symptoms Of Endometriosis
The symptoms of endometriosis may vary. Some women experience mild symptoms, but others can have moderate to severe symptoms. It is however important to note that the severity of your pain doesn’t indicate the degree or stage of the condition. You may have a mild form of the disease, yet experience agonizing pain. It’s also possible to have a severe form and have very little discomfort.
Pelvic pain is the most common symptom of endometriosis. You may also have the following symptoms:
- Painful periods: (also known as dysmenorrhea).Painful periods may occur in people who have endometriosis. Pelvic pain and cramping may begin before your period and extend several days into your period. You may also have lower back and abdominal pain.
- Excessive bleeding. Some also experience occasional heavy periods (menorrhagia) or bleeding between periods (menometrorrhagia).
- Infertility: Endometriosis is often first diagnosed in some women who are seeking treatment for infertility. So that woman you think is unable to have a child might just have this problem. About one-third to half of women with endometriosis reportedly have trouble getting pregnant.
- Other symptoms may also include fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating or nausea, especially during menstrual periods.
A handful of people have however reportedly had no symptoms. It’s therefore important that women get regular gynecological exams, which will allow your gynecologist to monitor any changes. This is particularly important if you have two or more symptoms.
At present, laparoscopy is the only way to diagnose endometriosis correctly. This is an operation that involves the woman going under an anaesthetic after which a thin telescopic tube with a light (a laparoscope) is inserted into the abdomen through a cut in the belly button, allowing the gynaecologist to see if there is any endometrial tissue within the pelvis. Some or all of the visible tissue is removed so it can be examined under a microscope to confirm a diagnosis of endometriosis.
Some physicians and patients may try to treat suspected endometriosis with certain medications to see if symptoms are improved without having to undergo surgery. Although this may be possible, endometriosis cannot be diagnosed by improvement in symptoms with medication alone.
The most conservative therapy for endometriosis is with medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, like ibuprofen, may help with the pain associated with endometriosis.
Some doctors may prescribe medications that affect a woman’s hormones in order to help with endometriosis pain. Some examples are oral contraceptive pills and gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists, the latter of which put women into a “temporary” menopause-like state.
Surgery can be used to remove the endometriosis or to burn the endometriosis lesions outside of the uterus to make them go away. It is also used to get rid of scar tissue so that the ovaries and tubes can go back to their normal location in the pelvis. Surgery has been shown to improve pain symptoms associated with endometriosis and may also help women become pregnant.
If a woman with endometriosis is not interested in becoming pregnant, she and her doctor may decide to remove the ovaries and possibly the uterus.
A Woman with endometriosis having trouble getting pregnant, there are different medications and treatments available that can help her to become pregnant.
AN ENDOMETRIOSIS STORY
Meghan is a woman who has experienced endometriosis she had this to say “My symptoms started as abdominal pain”. Right away she was told that her symptoms sounded related to endometriosis, but was sent to a gastrointestinal doctor to get rid of any stomach-related issues. “The whole time I kept saying, ‘This is endometriosis, this is endometriosis,’ and they kept telling me ‘No, it’s not.’
“I went to a specialist, someone who specialized in endometriosis and, within 5 minutes of me being there, he said, ‘You have endometriosis; I 100% agree with you,’” Meghan explains.
When asked what was the biggest challenge she faced, she replied, “100% not being taken seriously and not being listened to. The pain interfered with my work, and I was not able to get out of bed some days.”
The first step in diagnosis is talking about your symptoms with your gynecologist.
Be specific when describing your symptoms to your gynecologist. Describe exactly what type of pain you’re experiencing and when. This can lead to better understanding of your unique situation, which is helpful in creating a treatment plan.
Dear women, take care of yourselves and your health. Get yourselves checked regularly.
Here is endometriosis in a nutshell.
I’d end this with a quote from Susan Sarandon.
“Suffering should not define you as a woman! And just because you’re a man it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect you! HELP HER remove the taboos and the loneliness surrounding this disease; be understanding, show empathy, and don’t accuse her of being sensitive, delicate, or overly dramatic – this is a big opportunity for you guys to show that you care and to be a real man!” (Address, 2011 Endometriosis Foundation of America Blossom Ball)”― Susan Sarandon
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ON THIS CONDITION, VISIT THESE RESOURCES. THEY WERE VERY USEFUL IN WRITING THIS PIECE.