Endometriosis: A painful disease not many know about

Photo Credit: Naser Chawroka

Whoopi Goldberg, Anna Friel, Hillary Clinton and Lena Dunham all have been diagnosed with endometriosis, and only by reading the complexity of the word it sounds like something awful. But, what exactly is it?

Endometriosis is defined as a disease where the presence of “endometrial” – like tissue – grows outside the uterus. It is a disorder that increases pain during the period, causes painful intercourse, bowel movements, urination and infertility.

This condition is not yet well researched. The causes are uncertain, and there are several risk factors when developing endometriosis. Such as, never giving birth, short menstrual cycles, uterine abnormalities, having higher levels of estrogen, ovarian cancer, among others.

Endometriosis is estimated to affect between one out of ten of all women within the general women population in reproductive age. There is not much awareness and people are not familiar with the struggle.

Carolina Miyasaka, a 20-year-old college student in Ireland, has already experienced surgery and a bunch of over-the-counter pain reliever treatments. “It’s so painful that I don’t feel like getting out of bed. Sometimes not even the pills help, and no one believed that I could be in so much pain from a period”.

Severe period pain is definitely not normal. Phrases such as ‘you have a low pain threshold’ or ‘it is part of being a woman’, diminish the importance of the condition. The truth is that if pain interferes with daily life, you must visit your doctor.

Treatment for endometriosis is usually with medication or surgery. It depends on the severity of the symptoms, the patient and doctor decision. Pain medications, hormone therapy, conservative surgery and a hysterectomy. All of them are in consideration as treatments. However, it is important to consider pregnancy expectations.

Living with this condition might change your lifestyle. Sometimes measures such as warm baths, regular exercise and a proper diet will help to ease painful menstrual cramps. Also, it might help simply to talk about it. Therefore, there are support groups with women which suffer the same problems.

There is no cure for endometriosis. Every woman diagnosed must understand the treatment procedures and the consequences. Disclose information to women in general, relatives and partners of the women affected are only a few steps that can help to accept this condition.

In contrast to diabetes or other diseases, endometriosis does not receive a lot of funding. Researchers need to collect compatible data, investigate human genome of women, among others. There is still a lot to be done but the most important thing is that the silence has been broken.

The Endometriosis Association of Ireland is a full voluntary organisation that offers support and information to women in Ireland who are affected by endometriosis. For more information, you can visit their website: http://www.endometriosis.ie/

Support Helpline of the Association – +353 86 320 3855