Endometriosis Receives Attention
In 2008, women who suffer with endometriosis got some much needed press when news of two performers of ‘Dancing With The Stars’ were diagnosed with endometriosis. Julianne Hough underwent surgery for the condition and Lacey Schwimmer chose treatment with medications to deal with her endometriosis.
A Very Often Misunderstood And Far-Reaching Disease
Endometriosis is a far-reaching and often misunderstood disease which affects more than five million women in the United States alone. Worldwide, the number is in excess of 70 million women and girls who have endometriosis. This number exceeds those suffering with breast cancer, AIDS or many of the other well-known diseases. Yet, in spite of the massive number of female sufferers, endometriosis is not widely publicized. The tide is beginning to change though, as methods of detection and diagnoses have improved and as a result, more cases are being uncovered. The increased public awareness has women taking pelvic pain seriously instead of brushing if off as inconsequential.
What, Exactly, Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is not cancer nor can it be spread because it is not contagious. It is a biological malfunction within the reproductive organs and pelvis of a woman which presents initially with symptoms of painful periods and abdominal pain, feeling run down and general malaise. The symptoms become more severe as the disease progresses.
Essentially, endometriosis is the displacement of the endometrium (uterine lining) to places outside of the uterus. The endometrium is very hormonally sensitive and since, in cases of endometriosis, it isn’t shed during menses, it becomes thicker. The lining of the abdomen experiences blood as an inflammatory and when it just sits in the abdominal cavity it causes pain, scarring and adhesions. The result is that organs are stuck together as though they had been glued. Also, conception is often negatively affected and infertility results.
The Cause Is Not Fully Known, And Treatments Can Vary
Since nobody really seems to know what causes endometriosis, treatment options are varied and debated among professionals. The intensity and severity of both the disease and the symptoms are the criteria for treatment prescriptions. There are several considerations taken into account when prescribing treatment. Along with the severity and intensity of the symptoms, the age of the woman and whether she wants to conceive a pregnancy are considered. Additionally, the length, side effects and cost of treatment affect the treatment decision.
One type of treatment used for endometriosis is hormone drug therapy which is designed to stop the production of estrogen in the body. Estrogen, naturally produced in a woman’s body, surges each month and this surge causes a thickening in the uterine lining. When there is no fertilized egg implanted in the uterus, the lining is sloughed off as the level of estrogen drops. By stopping the estrogen surge, the lining doesn’t thicken and is sloughed off. While this method may be useful, surgery is generally required to arrive at healing.
Another option of treatment is the “watch, wait and see” approach which means the woman is treated with prescription analgesics or NSAIDs for pain. This can be effective in milder cases as can the option of using a combined treatment of drugs, observation and surgery to help a woman through the disease.