Endometriosis – a disease in which tissue that lines inside of the uterus is found outside the uterus – affects an estimated 1 in 10 women or approximately 200 million women worldwide. It is somewhat surprising that with the number of individuals affected, endometriosis remains a disease that goes under diagnosed.
To try to change this state of affairs, March has been designated Worldwide Endometriosis Month. This year represents the sixth year of raising awareness to the signs, symptoms, and effects of this disease. A chronic and silent disease, endometriosis can cause years of incapacitating pain and a compromised quality of life. Furthermore, lack of awareness and research on the disease has led to countless unnecessary medical procedures.
According to the Endometriosis Center, endometriosis is “the development of uterine-lining tissue outside the uterus.”. This tissue acts just like it does inside the uterus, which means it breaks down and bleeds at the end of the menstrual cycle. However, the blood from this tissue has no place to go. Surrounding areas may become inflamed and swollen, and scar tissue and lesions can develop. Although endometriosis is found primarily on the ovaries, it can also develop on the fallopian tubes, bladder, and bowel.
Endometriosis affects women, primarily during their reproductive years, which is approximately ages 15 to 49. But it can begin as early as a girl’s first period and last well into menopause. In a few instances, a man has been affected by endometriosis, but those cases are extremely rare.
Currently, there is no known cause for endometriosis. Part of the work of raising awareness around the symptoms and complications of the disease is to inspire more funding for research. Even with the number of women affected, there is still no known cure. Countless women undergo pointless surgeries, including hysterectomies, which do not alleviate the symptoms or cure the disease.
Raising awareness around the symptoms of endometriosis is crucial in aiding doctors to correctly diagnose the disease. Symptoms of endometriosis include painful menstruation, painful sex, and pain accompanying bowel movements and urination. It can also cause extreme back pain and gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and vomiting. In some cases, it leads to infertility.
For many years, these symptoms have been dismissed as part of having a menstrual period. A woman can live for years with these symptoms, enduring chronic pain and a reduced quality of life, feeling it is simply a part of her menstrual cycle, but the level of pain is not normal and she should consult a physician.
With the efforts of worldwide awareness campaigns, endometriosis is finally being recognized as a disease that needs funding for further research and public health campaigns. Endomarch Day, March 30, 2019, is a worldwide event designed to raise awareness and funding to advocate for changes in how endometriosis is diagnosed and treated and to help prevent disease progression.