Endometriosis is a medical condition that affects women and more often than not it is very painful, with very troubling consequences. In earlier days there were little to no awareness and comprehension in Nigeria for this condition with speculated causes ranging from differences in educational standards and ethnic habits to the availability and quality of diagnostic resources.
To provide information and support women with endometriosis a worldwide Awareness Week has been established. This year’s dates are 3 – 9 March 2017.
What is Endometriosis?
Women are diagnosed with endometriosis when the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus actually grows outside the uterus. When this happens, the ovaries (and possibly the fallopian tubes and tissue lining of the pelvis) are affected. In severe cases, although rare, endometrial tissue can even spread beyond pelvic organs. The condition normally presents in women in their late 20s to early 30s.
It has been alleged that 30 – 40% of Nigerian women (who live in Nigeria) suffer from endometriosis.
There is also a recent study that claims approximately 11% of women and girls in Nigeria unknowingly live with the disorder, even though they show no symptoms, with diagnosis only occurring years later.
The condition is mostly associated with extremely painful, even incapacitating, menstruation every month (the pain can actually start from as early as a week before actual menstruation). Often intense pain is also experienced during intercourse. This can put severe strain on a couple’s relationship if the reason for the pain is unknown or misunderstood. Some women also experience constipation and pain when passing stool.
What are the Risks of Endometriosis?
Decreased fertility (or an increased risk for infertility) and early menopause are some of the main concerns for those suffering from endometriosis.
Why is Endometriosis a Problem in Nigeria
Medical experts believe that too many patients suffering from endometriosis are misunderstood, misdiagnosed or simply not taken seriously. There are also many untruths, the worst perhaps that the severe pain is simply a normal symptom of menstruation. Another misconception is that endometriosis was not common among the aboriginal Africans. Some also believe it is hereditary while others blame it on delayed conception. The unavailability of modern medical equipment in some parts only aggravates the situation.
How is it Diagnosed?
Once you have visited a doctor and described your symptoms (where the pain is located and when it occurs) certain tests can be performed to check for endometriosis:
- A pelvic exam: the doctor will manually inspect the outside of your pelvis for abnormalities
- An ultrasound (and/or transvaginal ultrasound) to view productive organs
- Laparoscopy: for the most accurate diagnosis, you may need to see a surgeon who will look inside your abdomen (while you’re under anesthesia) for signs of endometriosis; a few tissues samples can also be retrieved for further analysis (biopsy)
A laparoscopy is useful in determining the location, extent and size of the endometrial implants. Based on this information, your doctor will be able to recommend suitable treatment.
Pain medication and hormonal therapy can help control symptoms, but it won’t solve the problem. Surgery is the best solution during which all the endometrial implants and adhesions are removed. If this procedure is performed early, it helps to preserve fertility in women.
Could you be silently or unknowingly suffering from endometriosis?
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