Endometriosis Day, An Invisible Disease

Endometriosis is a disease that consists of the growth of endometrial tissue outside the uterus, which can cause pain or infertility .

Woman with pain in the belly

Photo: Freepik

LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: Día de la endometriosis, una enfermedad invisibilizada

Every March 14, World Endometriosis Day is held to raise awareness about this disease that affects about 10% of girls and women around the world, according to figures from the World Health Organization . It is a chronic disease that can be quite painful. Despite the fact that it is estimated that 190 million women in the world suffer from it, it represents a challenge for current gynecology, as there are problems and taboos that generate underdiagnosis, undervaluation and invisibility of this condition.

What is endometriosis and what are its symptoms?

The tissue that lines the inside of the uterus is called the endometrium. Normally, such tissue should only be found within this organ. However, there are times when it grows on the outside, spreading over other areas, and causes a series of irregularities in menstrual cycles. Moreover, it is also a common cause of infertility. "Although endometriosis can be asymptomatic, it can often cause debilitating pelvic pain, dyspareunia and dysmenorrhea or other symptoms including chronic fatigue," says research from the University of Pavia.

In other words, it significantly weakens the quality of life because it generates heavy bleeding, intense pelvic pain, irregularities in the menstrual cycle and pain during sexual intercourse. Likewise, there are cases in which this pain can also occur when urinating or defecating, if the growth of the tissue extends to organs such as the intestine or the bladder. However, these symptoms tend to normalize because there is no deep education about pleasure or the menstrual cycle. Therefore, it is a taboo subject.

Endometriosis is a chronic disease that usually becomes increasingly painful. However, due to the taboos around menstruation and sex, doctors often have problems diagnosing it and patients identifying it.

Challenges for the management of endometriosis

Research published this year in the journal Nature notes that “The pathophysiology and etiology of endometriosis are still unclear. According to recent evidence, the disease is an estrogen-dependent disorder whose symptoms may be cyclical parallel to the menstrual cycle and resolve significantly after menopause, but not completely”: This is only evidence that, despite the fact that every day there are more and more efforts to study this disease, there are still no clear data on its origin and treatment.

For this reason, one of the banners of many groups that fight for sexual and reproductive rights has been to raise awareness about endometriosis and demand that public and health institutions give it greater relevance. One of the most relevant is the global Endomarch movement which denounces that: “As a result of decades of underfunding and lack of awareness, people with endometriosis continue to receive grossly inadequate or inappropriate medical care including multiple failed treatments that do not work and/or or cause serious injury due to serious adverse side effects.”

Endometriosis in Latin America

According to an investigation published in the Science and Health Magazine | UCIMED, stigma, and prejudice are factors to be analyzed in the study of endometriosis. "They have been related to endometriosis from the socio-cultural point of view.  There are currently many taboos, surrounding menstruation in Latin America, which discourage women from speaking about the irregularities that they may suffer" she points out.

We recommend you read: Menstruation: the dirty and scary blood

On the other hand, the Manifesta Foundation in Colombia has been in charge of making a call for laws in Latin America that recognize endometriosis as a chronic disease to facilitate access to effective treatments.

According to information from the House of Representatives in Colombia, in September of last year, the bill was filed "by which it is established through early and timely detection, diagnosis, studies, control, treatment, medications and therapies the comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach to endometriosis”. In Argentina, the Endometriosis Law has been promoted, backed by a movement called Endoguerreras and by the Argentine Endometriosis Society. On the other hand, in Chile, the deputies have also been discussing a project to create the Endometriosis Law and facilitate access to treatments.

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