Around the world, many people suffer from endometriosis, a chronic disease affecting 1/10th of women. According to Dr Aruna Muralidhar, senior consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Fortis Hospital, Richmond Road, Bangalore, it involves the spread of endometrial glands from the inner lining of the uterus to various parts of the pelvis and other organs.
“These glands respond to hormones (especially estrogen) just like the lining of the womb. It is not cancer, nor is it an infection, but quite debilitating. It may reduce the quality of life,” she says, adding that its diagnosis can be delayed due to “negligence by the woman” — ignoring it because of lack of awareness — as well as the “treating healthcare personnel”.
Dr Muralidhar says due to its varied symptoms involving bowel and bladder, multiple consultations with various specialists can delay the diagnosis, too.
She recommends the following tips to cope with endometriosis, in order to keep the condition under control; read on.
1. Know the condition: Just knowing the cause of your pelvic pain can make a huge impact on mental and emotional health. The fact that the condition is chronic and may change according to the hormonal influences in various phases of womanhood is important to know.
2. Seek help early: Understanding the symptoms and seeking help early from a gynaecologist will help early diagnosis and better control of symptoms. If diagnosis is delayed, there may be some issues such as subfertility.
3. Make some lifestyle changes: Diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and omega-3 fatty acids help avoid the growth of ectopic endometrial tissue. Diets rich in red meat may increase estrogen production and worsen the condition. Exercise has been shown to reduce estrogen production. Better circulation and mood can help one cope with the symptoms.
4. Avail targeted treatment and management: Specific management options can be discussed towards allaying the particular symptom that is primarily affecting the woman. Pain can be managed by a well-informed gynaecologist with various analgesics, hormonal treatment and other alternative methods. Subfertility may need surgical management.
Symptoms related to other pelvic organs will need supportive and multidisciplinary treatment. Pain management specialists can manage chronic pelvic pain with various medications and other targeted treatments. Mental health professionals can help improve associated symptoms such as low mood and anxiety.
5. Spread the word: Endometriosis is a common condition that needs to be diagnosed early and accurately. Treatment tailored to the symptoms helps in managing it with no (or minimal) impact on quality of life. Building awareness about this condition, encouraging suffering women to report and seek help, and helping them cope will be of great service.