What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a common medical condition that occurs when the tissue that lines the uterus (endometrium) grows outside of it - that is on organs such as the fallopian tube, ovaries or (on rare occasions) intestines.
Every month, this tissue is broken down like regular uterine tissue during the menstrual period, but the blood has nowhere to go and becomes trapped. This causes scar tissue to form around the ovaries and/or fallopian tubes.
This condition is often diagnosed in women between the ages of 25 and 35.
Endometriosis is characterised by painful, irregular and abnormally heavy periods, pelvic and back pain, pain during intercourse, spotting, constipation, nausea, etc. It may also cause infertility and early menopause.
Although the cause of endometriosis is unclear, scientists and doctors have a few theories. The most likely one seems to be Retrograde Menstruation, which occurs when menstrual blood flows back into the pelvic organs. The theory is that cells stick to the organs, and then continue to regenerate every month.
Genetics also seem to play a role in the development of this condition. It is likely that if your mom or sister has endometriosis, you may develop it too.
How Food Affects Endometriosis
Like many medical conditions, what you eat can affect how severe the condition can be. In the case of endometriosis, your diet plays a huge role in how much the condition can affect the quality of your life.
Research has shown that some food and drinks aggravate the condition, while some make it a lot more bearable to deal with. If you’re living with endometriosis, your doctor will probably advise you to stay away from things like caffeine, alcohol, trans-fat, gluten, dairy and red meat.
Instead, your diet should contain foods high in fibre, omega-3 acids, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It is advised that you stick to food that does not cause inflammation or raise estrogen levels.
You should see a doctor if your periods last longer than 7 days and are accompanied by severe cramping. To get a diagnosis of endometriosis, your doctor can carry out a few exams including:
1. Pelvic exam: This is a physical and visual exam carried out by a doctor to ascertain if there are any unusual growths within the female reproductive system. This is one way in which the doctor can check for endometriosis. If their suspicion is strengthened, they will order more tests to confirm the diagnosis.
2. CT, MRI or Ultrasound: These kinds of examination are known as imaging. They are essential tests carried out to get a visual image of your uterus to properly diagnose the condition.
3. Laparoscopy: This is a surgical and minimally invasive procedure used for examining the organs in the abdomen. A small incision is made and a device called the laparoscope is inserted into the abdomen to allow the doctor to see the organs in real-time and detect any abnormalities.
After one or all of these investigations, your doctor should be able to share a diagnosis with you.
Although endometriosis has no cure, there are some forms of treatment available that reduce the symptoms significantly.
The treatment method prescribed by the doctor will be determined by whether you want children or not.
Usually, doctors start with prescribing conservative methods of treatment. Painkillers like Ibuprofen and Advil, which help relieve painful cramps, birth control pills or other hormonal contraceptives that help regulate the hormones.
If none of these methods works, doctors might eventually suggest surgery - that is the removal of the endometrial tissue, or a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus).
Number/ Percentage of Nigerian Women Living with Endometriosis
It is estimated that about 30-40% of the women residing in Nigeria live with this condition. That is a significant portion of the population, and many women (especially in rural areas) remain undiagnosed.
A study carried out among few women in Ibadan indicated that 48.1% of the respondents had endometriotic lesions.
Simply said, endometriosis is fairly common amongst Nigerian women.
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