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Get to know Endometriosis a little better

This is an often painful disorder whereby, the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus grows outside your uterus. It most commonly involves the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining the pelvic region. I am talking about Endometriosis. How many of you have ever heard about it? If not, don’t you worry, I had never heard about it myself until my friend, a classmate in campus, shared her awful painful experience during her periods.

It wasn’t a big deal to me back then because we were told experiencing awful pains during your periods is normal and it will eventually come to an end when you give birth to your first child. But that was not the case for my friend Gaudencia. She could be admitted to the University dispensary for severe cramps. I then developed this curiosity of wanting to know what Gaudencia was experiencing. When I started researching about it, I realized it’s not only Gaudencia who was experiencing this, but about 100 million women too.

It is so sad to know that many women don’t understand what Endometriosis is, including women who are suffering from it. Some tend to think it is the painful cramps that always correlate to your menstrual cycle.

 So what is this so called Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is very painful disorder that is characterized by pain that could be equated to getting stabbed in your abdomen over and over again. Endometriosis is so heavy you may think your insides are being cut off. Heavy menstrual bleeding, painful periods (Dysmenorrhea), painful intercourse, nerve pain are just but a few of the known symptoms.

Some of you may be wondering what causes Endometriosis in order to prevent it. But just like Cancer, (it is not a form of cancer) the real cause remains unknown. Note that; Endometriosis is neither contagious nor a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD). It’s not a curse either. If any of your family members have had Endometriosis, then it is highly likely that you could have it too. This is purely based on the background information on genetics.

Endometriosis is a complex disease with strands that differ from one to another. If it happens that you experience some of these symptoms, then it is neither too late nor too early to go for a checkup. Endometriosis is not a disease that doctors can physically diagnose as some, would be patients,  tend to “play doctor” once they know of Endometriosis and fear acceptance based on the fact that the treatment may leave them with an option of not having kids in the long run. Quite the contrary as Endometriosis doesn’t definitely result in infertility as it doesn’t just affect older women in their thirties or forties as is believed.

Take Gaudencias’ case for example. She started her first periods at the tender age of  just 8. Weird! Yes I know. So being a teenager and having this awful pain was a big hurdle to her. The pain was indescribable and completely affected every aspect of her teenage life. The loneliness that accompanied it was just as painful as the cramps.

Often, she would feel broken and depressed if not angry. The pain would make you feel like you’ve lost part of your teenage years to a rare auto-immune disease, the worst part being the lack of understanding form other people around you on what it is exactly you are going through. My wish is for endometriosis screening to be embraced just as cancer and HIV with routine exam checks for teenagers. This will be able to help the next as well as the present generation of women who will not have to undergo this terrible experience.

Is endometriosis the same as cramps?

Not really. Endometriosis is different from cramps in that it forms a growth called endometrioma on the outside of your uterus. It is also referred to as a cyst. The problem with  endometriosis is that there is no one size fits all treatment plan. Endometriosis can cause blockage to the fallopian tubes hence making conception difficult, in some cases infertility occurs. It can also cause miscarriages as it does not just form in your pelvic area, fallopian tubes, uterus, ovaries but can as well spread to your liver, bladder, lungs and other areas of your body.

Does Endometriosis have a cure?

Despite the fact that there is no known cure, there are some methods used to reduce the pain temporarily depending on the diagnosed stage of Endometriosis. It has four stages namely Minimal, Mild, Moderate and Savere.

Minimal is the stage whereby the implants remain confined to the pelvic region with minimal spreading. This pain can be controlled by painkillers though not permanently. Some doctors prescribe for birth control at this point as it  hinders the ovaries from releasing an ovum monthly hence reducing the pain.

The mild and moderate stage is is where the implants increase, it may cover the ovaries, fallopian tubes and go to the extent of covering your cervix. This can be controlled or treated by performing a key-hole surgery. This is mainly to remove mild and moderate endometrial deposits. In extreme cases, the ovaries may have to be removed. During this Endometriosis period the female organs swell up and organs affected by adhesions can become inflamed hence leading to bloodedness along with retention. Endometriosis can affect your bladder when it attaches itself to it or even your lungs hence causing them to collapse.

The final stage of endometriosis is called Savere. At this stage there is excessive endometrial implants occurrence in the reproductive area extending out beyond the pelvic region into other areas of the abdominal cavity as well .At this stage, the method of diagnosis is Laparoscopic surgery. Since ultra sounds and diagnostics testing often provide no answer, doctors are left to carry out the Laparoscopic surgery. Some women suffering from this debilitating disease are Njambi Kaikai and Irene Mumo. They both shared their endometriosis experience on the show “Victorias Lounge” with the objective of helping women understand the disease.

We all need to raise awareness so that women experiencing painful periods should not think it is normal and sleep on it. The disease does not only cause early miscarriage but also terrible hormonal swings that lead to weight gain, depression, mood swings and other health complications.

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