This is the first time I have done one of WordPress’s Daily Word Prompt Challenges. I hope I am doing it correctly. Today’s word is profound, and *cue the cheese* it had a profound effect on me. How so? Because of an illness I have called endometriosis.
I, and 176 million other women on this planet we call Earth, suffer from this disease. That number equals out to about 1 in 10 women. So let’s say you know about 100 women. That means 10 of them have endometriosis whether they know it or not.
But it’s a disease almost no one has heard of. How can this be? Because it’s a “below-the-waist” issue. Historically, this is an area of the female body that people feel ashamed to talk about. This is primarily due to cultural taboos that exist to this day. So what? Let’s talk about it.
This is a disease in which tissue similar to that which lines the inside of the womb is found outside the womb. It is most commonly found on structures in the pelvic cavity. However, it can migrate, like a cancer, to the abdominal cavity and beyond. It has been found lining the diaphragm, lungs, and as far away from the pelvic region as the brain.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a disease of crippling pain for most women it affects. And this isn’t “normal” pain. Some cramping during a woman’s menstrual cycle is normal. Girls are taught in school and continue to be told by physicians throughout adulthood that all pain is normal. But gut-wrenching, doubled over pain that makes a woman or girl miss out on school, work, or other activities is not normal. Common symptoms, courtesy of the Center for Endometriosis Care, one of the world’s top treatment centers, include:
- “Crippling period pain in menstruating females
- Abdominopelvic pain at any time, often intractable
- Bowel or urinary disorders/pain/dysfunction
- Painful intercourse/penetration/sexual activity
- Infertility/pregnancy loss/possible link to preterm births
- Immune-related and other comorbid disorders
- Allergies, migraines or fatigue that may tend to worsen around menses
- Coughing up blood in cases of pleural/thoracic endometriosis
- Leg and lower back pain, particularly in cases of sciatic endometriosis”
Women may present with few or many of these symptoms depending on the location and depth of lesions. Girls may begin experiencing symptoms of endometriosis even within 6 months after her first period. In fact, it has been stated that as many as 70% of teenagers with pelvic pain go on to be diagnosed with endometriosis.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Endometriosis
Endometriosis can only be diagnosed via a laparoscopic surgery where biopsies of tissues can be taken. The gold standard therapy is a surgery known as excision. Only about 100 specialists worldwide are able to perform this delicate surgery. This is due to the need for the expert skill required to be able to operate on nearly all organ systems within the body. Many OB/GYNs will perform surgeries called ablation, coagulation, or fulguration. However, these methods leave cells behind and have a 40-100% failure rate. This necessitates repeat surgeries over and over again, but no number of ablation surgeries will get rid of endometriosis.
I have experienced this failure firsthand. I have also experienced the success of excision, which in the right hands has a 15-20% failure rate, or even less. Two years after my excision surgery, I had another surgery that confirmed that no endometriosis was present, which is as good as a cure. Keep in mind also that endometriosis has no cure, so numbers that good are stellar.
Many physicians will use methods such as birth control or other medications that put the body into a temporary state of menopause to decrease pain. But these methods are only palliative measures. This unfortunately means the pain will return following cessation of the medications. And by the way, pregnancy and hysterectomy are not cures either.
The Profound Effects of Endometriosis
But why does it matter? Who cares about a disease that won’t kill you? Because the effects it can have not only on the life of the person who has it, but on their spouses, partners, loved ones, and friends, can be truly detrimental as well.
Has your wife or partner ever complained of pain during or after sex? Has she made “excuses” that it hurts too much to be intimate? She may have endometriosis.
Has your daughter, wife, or partner ever been curled up in the fetal position with a heating pad during or around her monthly cycle? Has she missed school, sports, work, or other activities she normally enjoys? She may have endometriosis.
Have you, as a woman, or your wife or female partner ever experienced difficulty getting pregnant? 30-40% of women with endometriosis are infertile, and many women aren’t diagnosed until they attempt to conceive. You or she may have endometriosis.
Have you, as a woman, ever experienced any of the above symptoms? You may have endometriosis.
Endometriosis has a profound effect on the lives of not only the women who have it, but on the lives of those who love those women, too.