Womanhood is beautiful but not without its challenges. The widening of hips and blooming of breasts are but a tip because menstruation is the ‘real’ mark of womanhood. While menstruation is a highlight in the womanhood journey, not all women have the luxury of embracing it due to excruciating pain. The pain affects their entire spectrum of their life. This discomfort arousing from the pain prompts some women to seek gynecological help where they are diagnosed with endometriosis, while those who can’t afford the diagnosis procedure survive on pain-relieving drugs.
Endometriosis is a gynecological disorder that results in chronic inflammation. It occurs when the endometrium tissue grows outside the uterus on other organs like the liver, brain, lung, and old surgical scars. According to endostats.com, 1 in every 10 women (176 million globally) are affected by the illness in their reproductive ages (15- 49 years). Previously associated with the affluent, the disease does not discriminate because women from all races are at risk.
The causes are unknown. However, possible explanations include:
- Problems with the menstrual flow whereby the menstrual blood enters the fallopian tubes and pelvis instead of leaving the body the usual way
- Embryonic cell growth in the abdomen and pelvis develop into endometrial tissues
- Genetics. Studies show that the risk is seven times greater if a first-degree relative is affected
- Hormones. The hormone to blame is estrogen
Predisposing factors range from age (more common among women aged 30-40 years), nulliparity, medical and menstrual history all through to consumption of caffeine and alcohol, and lack of exercise that tends to raise estrogen levels.
Endometriosis is often misdiagnosed. It is widely reported as dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation that involves abdominal cramps). The symptoms are:
- Painful periods
- Periods lasting longer than 7 days
- Heavy bleeding resulting in changing the sanitary towel every 1-2 hours
- Painful intercourse
- Bloating or nausea
- Lower back and abdominal pain
- Pain during bowel movements or urination
In case of any of these symptoms, one ought to seek gynecological help.
Diagnosis can be through MRI, ultrasound, pelvic examination, and laparoscopy. There is no cure for endometriosis. However, management of endometriosis can be done by seed cycling, hormonal treatments, laparoscopy, giving birth, and hysterectomy (uterus removal). Despite the various treatment options, those on hormonal treatment experience hot flashes, chin hair, mood swings, and night sweat that interferes with their social life. Whereas for laparoscopy and birth, the symptoms may re-occur after a while.
Much still needs to be done in the diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis. Laparoscopy remains to be an expensive procedure that few can afford. Reducing the cost of treatment, including the treatment procedure in the medical cover, and having several facilities that can treat endometriosis are among the recommendations that need to be actualized to make the journey easier for our endo-sisters. Further, awareness should target the individual, family, work environment, and nation.
While on treatment, eating right is vital. An anti-inflammatory diet can help manage the symptoms. Therefore, increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, and plant proteins and minimize your intake of sugary foods and deep-fried foods. In addition to the diet, have a fitness regimen and aim to reduce your body fat since it will help decrease the amount of estrogen circulating that can result in endometriosis.
Considering how much the menstruation topic is a taboo, not many women are willing to speak up about it. Regardless of this fact, few women like Janet Mbugua, Elsie Odhiambo, Ciru Muriuki, Njambi Koikai have defied the norm. They have boldly spoken about endometriosis, the challenges experienced, and the way forward. The disease may not grab as much attention. Therefore, more people need to speak about it. However, we choose to create awareness and cheer on our endo warriors.