The word endometriosis is often uttered with great pain & anxiety. Every case of endometriosis is an enigma and calls for a deeper understanding of causes beyond the symptoms. Clear understanding about the same will raise awareness and reduce suffering. In this blog, we will address endometriosis in the most genuine scientific way.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue outside of the uterus resembles the uterine lining (endometrium). Endometriosis can grow on the exterior of your uterus, ovaries, tubes, or even your bladder and intestines. This tissue can irritate the organs it contacts, producing pain and adhesions (scar tissue).
The average wait period for a diagnosis for women is 6.7 years. This prolongs their suffering, which frequently leads to mental health problems.
The difficulty of diagnosis is just one factor that contributes to this delayed diagnosis.
Aside from bias in medical research, it is not unusual for women’s suffering to be underestimated in comparison to men’s.
Let’s Know, More About Endometriosis.
Many women with endometriosis have pelvic or abdominal discomfort, which is worsened by menstrual bleeding or intercourse. Some women have no symptoms. It might be difficult to get pregnant if you have endometriosis. Endometriosis affects 30 to 50 percent of infertile women. Endometriosis can sometimes develop inside your ovary and produce a cyst (endometrioma).
This causes an inflammatory response, which can lead to the formation of scar tissue and the sticking together of pelvic organs. Debilitating pain during menstruation, painful bowel motions, pain while urination, pain during sexual intercourse, and fatigue are just a few of the symptoms. It is also associated with an increased risk of infertility.
Unfortunately, there is no full-proof treatment for endometriosis. Though hormone therapy can help with symptoms, it is also known to have negative side effects. Endometriosis lesions have to be surgically removed, but the risk of relapse can’t be ruled out.
Endometriosis affects 10-15% of all menstruators, according to current statistics. Because of the number of cases that go undiagnosed, this number might be significantly higher. Despite the high frequency, women must wait an average of 6.7 years for a diagnosis. This prolongs their suffering, which frequently leads to mental health problems.
The difficulty of diagnosis is one of several factors that contribute to the delay in diagnosis. There are no blood tests that can be used to diagnose this condition. Doctors can diagnose one with endometriosis based on their symptoms, but a definitive diagnosis requires surgery. Due to their similar symptoms, endometriosis is frequently misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome or appendicitis.
Unlike other endometriotic tissue, this may usually be detected on ultrasound. A surgical procedure known as laparoscopy is the only method to determine if you have endometriosis for sure.
The lack of study using female animal models is one of the key reasons why women’s health concerns are misdiagnosed. Male animals were commonly utilized more than female animals since they were regarded to be less variable due to the lack of monthly hormonal cycles. As a result, the majority of studies favored male subjects.
Research organizations are still debating the ideal mammalian model to use for studying difficulties particular to the female body. Aside from bias in a medical study, it is not unusual for women’s pain to be underestimated in comparison to men’s. This may be linked back to a history of women being labeled as “hysterical” if they complained of pain that wasn’t immediately apparent.
The concept that a displaced uterus was the cause of pain from an unusual, seemingly invisible sickness was first mentioned in ancient Greek texts. This gave rise to the concept of ‘hysteria’ as a mental disorder, paving the way for modern-day women to be informed that their seemingly intangible pain was “all in their heads.”
As a result, it is typical for women’s pain to be ignored or trivialized. In reality, the phrase “gender pain gap” was developed to address discrimination in healthcare, when unconscious bias causes women’s pain to be dismissed as unimportant.
Does Endometriosis Cause Infertility?
If you have endometriosis, becoming pregnant may be more difficult. Women with endometriosis might have infertility in 30 to 50 percent of cases. Endometriosis can affect fertility in a variety of ways, including distorted pelvic anatomy, adhesions, scarred fallopian tubes, inflammation of pelvic structures, immune system dysfunction, changes in the hormonal environment of the eggs, impaired pregnancy implantation, and reduced egg quality.
Your doctor may assign you a “score” based on the quantity, location, and depth of endometriosis. This number defines whether your endometriosis is mild (Stage 2), moderate (Stage 3), or severe (Stage 4). The success of pregnancy is linked to this rating system.
Women with severe (Stage 4) endometriosis, which results in significant scarring, blocked fallopian tubes, and damaged ovaries, have the most difficulties conceiving and usually require advanced reproductive treatment.
How is Endometriosis Treated?
The female hormone estrogen is needed for endometriosis to develop and grow. Birth control pills and other estrogen-lowering or estrogen-blocking medications can help relieve pain symptoms. Medical therapy may be considered for patients who want to get pregnant before attempting to conceive, however, this treatment usually improves pregnancy rates.
If endometriosis is detected during surgery, the endometriosis will be surgically destroyed or removed, as well as the scar tissue. This treatment will return your anatomy to normal and allow your reproductive organs to function normally again. After surgical treatment, your chances of becoming pregnant improve, especially if your endometriosis is moderate or severe.
In individuals hoping to conceive through in vitro fertilization, a mix of surgical and medicinal treatment may be useful (IVF). Overall, each patient’s treatment is very personalized.
As a sufferer of endometriosis, it takes almost five years to receive a correct diagnosis. While some doctors invalidated my pain, others advised them to “get married” and “have children” to deal with it. To most people’s surprise, these experiences in cities like Mumbai and Bangalore. The Rural & urban divide is almost diminished in the case of endometriosis diagnosis & treatment.
However, it’s not all bad news. There has been growing interest in endometriosis research. A brief scan of PubMed, the most widely used scientific research archive, reveals that the number of studies on endometriosis has been rapidly increasing in recent years. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there were only about 500 articles published every year. This number has risen significantly, with over 2,000 articles published in 2021 alone.
With new research advancing our understanding of the condition, more institutions are employing a multidisciplinary approach to endometriosis treatment. Some endometriosis clinics employ doctors who have completed fellowships in endometriosis surgery. Endometriosis procedures may now be performed in a minimally invasive manner as well, thanks to enhanced infrastructure.
Endometriosis remains unnoticed for two main reasons: lack of awareness and difficulties identifying the disorder. With medical advancements, minor but continuous efforts have been made to address the latter. Female-specific disorders such as endometriosis, however, are still poorly communicated.
Do consult an endometriosis expert to get the right diagnosis & treatment. Early diagnosis can reduce or correct the chances of fertility.