Endometriosis, a chronic disorder women often pass off as normal period pain

Globally, endometriosis affects an estimated 176 million women - many of whom believe that the excruciating pain they live with is normal period pain.

Myupchar August 20, 2019 20:33:52 IST
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Endometriosis, a chronic disorder women often pass off as normal period pain
  • Globally, endometriosis affects an estimated 176 million women - many of whom believe that the excruciating pain they live with is normal

  • Over 25 million Indian women have endometriosis, according to the Endometriosis Society of India

  • Endometriosis often leads to significant period pain, chronic pelvic pain, fatigue, pain during or after sex, heavy flow during periods and infertility

Earlier this month, British host, model and TV presenter Alexa Chung revealed to the world that she has endometriosis. “I don’t want to belong to any club that wouldn't accept me, but here I am,” she wrote on her Instagram.

Endometriosis a chronic disorder women often pass off as normal period pain

Representative image. AFP

Endometriosis is a chronic pain disorder in which the tissue that lines the uterus — called endometrium — also grows on the ovaries, bowel, rectum, vagina or pelvic lining. With every menstrual cycle, this extra tissue also thickens, gets ready for reproduction, and is then discarded. The trouble is, there’s no exit route for the menstrual blood and tissue from these areas. It gets trapped and causes a world of pain - literally.

Read the blood signs

The world over, endometriosis affects an estimated 176 million women - many of whom believe that the excruciating pain they live with is normal period pain, and never seek the medical help they need. Over 25 million Indian women have endometriosis, according to the Endometriosis Society of India.

Endometriosis often leads to significant period pain, chronic pelvic pain, fatigue, pain during or after sex, heavy flow during periods and infertility. In fact, most women with endometriosis find out they have this condition only after they have difficulties conceiving.

When the uterine tissue grows on the ovaries, it forms endometrial cysts. These cysts can irritate the surrounding tissue, and lead to scarring or even adhesions (in which the pelvic tissues and organs stick to each other). Research shows that 5-10% of women who had endometriosis also developed ovarian cancer.

A chronic disease, endometriosis takes a toll on several aspects of the patients’ lives. In May 2019, BMC Women’s Health — a peer-reviewed journal — launched a survey to understand the long-term effects of endometriosis on women’s health, jobs, sex life, education and lifestyle. The results are still awaited.

Pain, pain go away

Researchers have variously laid the blame at the door of the body’s immune system, family history, early onset of periods, infertility and frequent periods which can last more than seven days.

In Human Reproductive and Prenatal Genetics, authors Linda C. Giudice, Richard O. Burney, Christian Becker and Stacey Missmer et al., wrote that 50% of the time, it’s the patient’s genes that are responsible and 50% of the time, endometriosis is the result of environmental (exposome) factors.

Some researchers say that endometriosis may occur because of “backflow” of menstrual blood into the fallopian tubes and pelvis. This can cause the cells to get “stuck” and begin to grow there. However, this backflow happens in many women - not all of whom get endometriosis.

Whatever the reason, endometriosis can be a hard medical condition to manage. Early diagnosis and treatment can save women from a lot of - unnecessary - pain. Indeed it seems criminal not to treat when hormonal therapies such as oral contractive pills and progestin tablets (to manage progesterone levels) as well as surgical fixes like a simple laparoscopic surgery are so widely available.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. To know more on this topic, please visit https://www.myupchar.com/en/disease/endometriosis

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