Sunday, March 11, 2012

Endometriosis Awareness Day 11

     This March marks the 15th annual health awareness month recognition of Endometriosis Awareness Month. Often stigmatized as merely “killer cramps,” endometriosis is a poorly-understood disease characterized by pelvic pain, painful menstruation, infertility and pregnancy loss, pain with sexual activity, gastrointestinal and urinary tract difficulties and more.
Understanding Endometriosis
     During normal menstruation, the lining of the uterus (endometrium) breaks down, bleeds and exits the body. With endometriosis, however, these endometrial glands and stroma aberrantly implant on internal structures. The wayward tissue responds to normal hormonal commands, resulting in microscopic internal bleeding, inflammatory reaction, formation of debris-filled ovarian cysts known as endometriomas, and development of fibrosis, scar tissue and adhesions. The disease commonly causes loss of fertility, debilitating and often chronic pain as well as sexual dysfunction and impairment of the reproductive, bowels, bladder and nearby organs. Surgical confirmation is required for accurate diagnosis.
A Global Disease With No Cure
     Endometriosis, for which there is no absolute cure, affects over 176 million women and girls globally with staggering societal costs soaring past $100 billion annually.
     “We continue to find endometriosis is routinely misunderstood, under-diagnosed and ineffectively treated, despite being one of the most prevalent causes of hysterectomy, infertility and pelvic pain in women and girls around the world,” said Michelle E. Marvel, Founder and Executive Director of the Endometriosis Research Center. “Despite hallmark symptoms, the average delay in diagnosis remains an astounding 6-10 years, and a patient will seek counsel of 5 or more physicians before her pain is adequately addressed,” she added.
     Though definitive causes remain debatable, late studies indicate genetics, stem cell pathophysiology and immune dysfunction play an important role. Endometriosis can affect women from all races and socioeconomic backgrounds from adolescence to post-menopause, and the symptoms can be life-altering. “It is not unusual for a woman or girl to undergo repeated surgeries and embark on different medical therapies; many carrying significantly negative side effects and none offering long-term relief,” noted Marvel. “It is imperative that society begins to recognize the far-reaching impact this illness continues to have on women of all ages, not just those trying to conceive, in order to ensure that our next generation does not continue to suffer through delayed, substandard care as millions have before them,” she said.





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