Women all around the world share the experience of menstruation, yet it still faces stigma.
Depending on the culture and group, menstruation is viewed differently.
While there has been progress in improving healthcare for girls and women and advancing gender equality, there are still several “invisible” health problems that affect millions on an emotional and financial level. The best example is the silence around endometriosis.
About one among every ten women in the world suffers from this disease and yet very few know about it. If you want to break this cycle and want to learn about this painful disease that has terrorized women for ages, then you are at the right place.
What is Endometriosis?
The condition known as endometriosis is characterized by the growth of tissue outside of the uterine cavity that resembles the lining of your uterus.
Endometrium refers to the lining of your uterus.
Endometrial-like tissue that develops on your ovaries, intestines, and pelvic lining tissues is what causes endometriosis. Although it’s uncommon, endometrial-like tissue can occasionally spread outside of the pelvic area.
The displaced endometrial-like tissue is affected by the hormonal fluctuations of your menstrual cycle, which results in inflammation and pain in the region. These tissues grow, get thicker, and disintegrate. The degenerated tissues over time become stuck in your pelvis because it has nowhere else to go.
This tissue buildup in your pelvis can lead to inflammation, scarring, adhesion of the pelvic organs, excruciating pain throughout the menstrual cycle, and issues with conception.
Although many women suffer cramps throughout their periods, individuals who have endometriosis frequently have significantly more severe menstrual pain than usual. Over time, pain may potentially get worse.
Endometriosis frequently exhibits the following symptoms:
Periods of pain (dysmenorrhea). Pelvic pain and cramps starting several days before and lasting several days after a menstrual cycle. This is accompanied by lower back and stomach aches.
Excessive bleeding. Heavy menstrual bleeding between periods on occasion (intermenstrual bleeding).
Intercourse causes pain. Endometriosis frequently causes pain during or after intercourse.
Pain during urinating or bowel motions. These symptoms are most likely to occur during a menstrual cycle.
Infertility. Endometriosis is sometimes discovered in women seeking infertility therapy.
What do the statistics say?
Endometriosis affects around 10% of reproductive-aged women. However, the real prevalence is unclear since endometriosis lesions can only be seen and biopsyed using laparoscopy (a surgery in which a doctor examines in the abdomen with a camera via the belly button).
Endometriosis is found in 12-32 percent of women undergoing pelvic pain surgery and up to 50 percent of women undergoing infertility surgery. Endometriosis is seldom discovered in females before their period begins, but it is seen in up to half of young girls and teenagers who have pelvic pain and difficult periods.
The Stigma and Late Diagnosis
The main challenge is to wait for someone to believe them since the symptoms are often downplayed. To make it worse for most women it is very uncomfortable to speak about the issues such as pain during sex and even difficult to describe the symptoms.
There is also a general assumption that menstruation is painful, thus women may take longer to recognize that their pain is “exceptionally severe.”
The specific cause of endometriosis is unknown, although there are various ideas as to how and why it occurs. One prominent idea of its genesis is retrograde menstruation, in which blood and tissue from a woman’s uterus migrate down the fallopian tubes into the abdominal cavity during her period.
Another idea of endometriosis formation is coelomic metaplasia, which states that cells outside the uterus might undergo modifications to become cells that line the uterus. This is a common reason for endometriosis in unexpected places such as the thumb or knee. Another probable reason for endometriosis in areas other than the uterus is that cells from the uterine lining move through blood arteries or the lymphatic system, reaching other distant regions.
There is no cure for endometriosis. However, there are alternatives to minimize or eliminate the symptoms.
Medications are the most conservative treatment for endometriosis. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, may aid with endometriosis discomfort. Medications that manage a woman’s hormones may also assist with endometriosis discomfort. Oral contraceptives and gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists, for example, induce a “temporary” menopause-like condition in women.
Endometriosis can be diagnosed surgically. Endometriosis can also be treated by removing (excision) or burning (fulguration) endometriosis lesions. If a woman with endometriosis no longer wishes to become pregnant, she and her doctor may elect to have the ovaries and perhaps the uterus removed.
As a global culture, we must be more aware of endometriosis, more empathetic to individuals who suffer from it, speak up, and do all in our collective ability to reduce the gender health gap and remove the stigmas and biases associated with not only endometriosis but menstrual wellness in general.