By Elizabeth Sitotombe
EVER heard of endometriosis?
Many women will say no!
Endometriosis is a gynaecological condition which affects one in 10 girls and women who menstruate.
It is pretty much a common condition that many simply try to deal with as women. According to the WHO, it affects one in 10 women and girls of reproductive age globally.
Approximately 176 million girls and women of reproductive age around the globe have endometriosis.
A significant number of girls and women experience pain during their menstrual periods and their pains are not investigated as they have been made to believe that period pain is normal and will eventually disappear after one has given birth.
Yet it is a painful condition that can interfere with one’s everyday life.
Unfortunately many women are not receiving any treatment to relieve symptoms of the disease. It is a chronic disease that is associated with severe, life impacting pain during periods, bowel movements or urination.
One may also experience chronic pelvic pain, abdominal bloating, nausea, fatigue and, sometimes, depression anxiety and even infertility. Women with endometriosis may have some of the above symptoms, all of them or none at all.
With endometriosis, you find that endometrial glands or tissues are deposited outside the uterus.
They can be found anywhere around the abdomen. They can be in the ovaries, around the tubes or even be found on the intestines.
According to a specialised obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Tawanda Matsa: “Each time a woman goes on her menses, those areas will also produce blood causing severe pain during their periods, which they call jeko in Shona.
“The condition can either be mild, moderate or severe. In severe form, one has continuous pain.”
One can also develop cysts, also called chocolate cysts, in the ovaries.
Another presentation of endometriosis is sub-fertility with 30-50 percent of women with endometriosis being sub-fertile or infertile.
Most people with endometriosis struggle to conceive because of the endometrial tissues which can be found around the ovaries, disturbing ovulation and may also block the tubes
“In terms of how common this condition is, we come across it many times,” Dr Matsa said.
“In women with sub-fertility, the prevalence is above 50 percent.”
Generally, the diagnosis is made by either harvesting endometrial tissues, or through a diagnostic laparoscopy.
This is a minor operation where surgeons look at the uterus, the ovaries, tubes and intestines and everywhere in the pelvis.
They can find either chocolate cysts or brownish deposits around the pelvic structures.
There is no direct treatment for the condition, but interventions to help ease the pain, as well as help improve fertility.
One of the treatments involves burning the endometrial tissue during the laparoscopy or keyhole surgery.
A laparoscopy is a surgical procedure that allows a surgeon to access the inside of the abdomen and pelvis without having to make large incisions in the skin.
The advantages of the said procedure are that the diagnosis can be confirmed and treatment carried out at the same time.
Another way is suppressing symptoms through hormonal treatments.
No-one knows exactly what causes endometriosis but there are a few theories as to what may cause it, like genetics.
Endometriosis seems to affect some families more often than others, making a genetic link very likely.
In Zimbabwe, the Endometriosis Association of Zimbabwe (EAZ) helps people with this condition.
According to the association chairperson, Vimbai Mudanwa, the association seeks to raise awareness of the disease, provide affordable treatments as well as psychological support to the affected.
The main aim is to reduce the extent of suffering among girls and women living with the condition as there is no cure yet and the available treatments can prove to be expensive for many.
The association has a WhatsApp support group for women living with endometriosis, including a miscarriage and infertility support group.
As a woman, you do not have to suffer alone, you can contact them on 0736884500. Whatsapp only.
Identify your symptoms and seek medical assistance.