National Awareness Month
Congress has passed legislation designating the month of March as Endometriosis Awareness Month. Endometriosis is a disease that affects the reproductive and immune systems. The condition causes the growth of tissue similar to that of the lining of the uterus in areas outside of the womb. There is no cure for the condition which is believed to affect 5.5 million U.S. girls and women, and over 70 million females worldwide.
Doctors tend to dismiss the symptoms of endometriosis as heavy cramps, so that women don't receive proper diagnosis and treatment. The disease causes a host of medical problems including painful periods, chronic pelvic pain, and bladder and bowel problems. The endometrial tissue has been known to implant in areas outside of the pelvis, such as the diaphragm, lungs, and in rare cases, even in a woman's brain.
Research has shown that women with endometriosis have an increased risk for certain types of cancers and autoimmune disorders. The tissue growth associated with endometriosis can also turn malignant.
Doctors aren't sure what causes the disease which can at present, can only be diagnosed through a surgical procedure. However, experts feel that a variety of factors such as exposure to environmental toxins, dysfunction of the immune system, and genetics, may play a role in determining who will develop endometriosis. Meanwhile, the impact of endometriosis on the economy is huge. American businesses are losing billions of dollars every year due to loss of productivity and work days caused by the disease.
Michelle E. Marvel, the founder and executive director of the Endometriosis Research Center says that endometriosis must be recognized as more than just bouts of painful periods. “We continue to find that the disease remains misdiagnosed, misunderstood and ineffectively treated, despite being one of the most prevalent causes of hysterectomy, infertility and pelvic pain in women and girls around the globe. Despite hallmark symptoms, the average delay in diagnosis remains an astounding 9 years, and a patient will seek the counsel of 5 or more physicians before her pain is adequately addressed," says Marvel.
Endometriosis affects women from every race and spectrum of society. The severe pain brought on by the condition may make it impossible for a girl or a woman to go about her daily activities. Marvel says that women may undergo several rounds of surgery and try a variety of medications but none of these therapies grant long-term relief and often come with serious side effects.