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  • Writer's pictureJo Soria

Endometriosis Awareness Month

Are the Tables Finally Turning for Endometriosis Patients?

With Endometriosis Awareness Month well underway, there's no better time to take a deep dive into the condition that plagues more than 190 million women worldwide.

What is Endometriosis?

Categorized as a chronic disease where uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus and attaches itself to other internal structures, including the bowel, bladder, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvis, women with endometriosis are left in debilitating pain.

With endometriosis, the endometrial tissue acts like it normally would during a menstrual cycle by thickening and preparing to shed. However, because this tissue can't properly exit the body, it becomes trapped, leading to irritation, scar tissue, and adhesions.

Do Health Professionals Misunderstand Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is extremely challenging to diagnose, with the average wait for a diagnosis currently at a staggering 7 to 9 years; because of this, surrounding knowledge and treatment options are still quite limited, leaving many without adequate medical care.

"Just Something You Deal With"

According to the World Endometriosis Society and the World Endometriosis Research Foundation, a fundamental misconception is that menstrual pain is "just something you deal with as a woman." As a result, primary care practitioners are often quick to dismiss symptoms.

Endometriosis support advocates contend that these systemic failings in gynecological care leave women feeling trapped inside their bodies and completely isolated from the world around them.

Symptoms and Current Treatment Options

Symptoms of endometriosis can vary significantly from woman to woman. Still, unfortunately, most report widespread pain and fatigue that substantially lowers their quality of life, often leaving them bedbound and unable to complete daily tasks.

Other symptoms include:

  • Heavy/Uncontrollable menstrual bleeding

  • Headaches

  • Depression

  • Joint/Muscle pain

  • Chronic constipation

  • Painful intercourse

  • Vomiting/Nausea

  • Infertility

Endometriosis has no cure, and treatment options are based on reducing inflammation and alleviating pain. Usually, treatment involves laparoscopic surgery to remove lesions and scar tissue from affected areas and hormonal contraceptives to reduce uterine tissue production.

However, not all women are offered the option of surgery, and many are left with no choice but to explore alternative forms of treatment, such as homeopathic remedies including turmeric, curcumin, and ashwagandha, as well as removing well-known irritants such as gluten, dairy, and alcohol from their diet.

New Hope in The Fight Against Endometriosis

Although the cause of endometriosis is currently unknown, exciting new research conducted by Oxford University suggests a genetic cause, with researchers finding a strong correlation between the occurrence of the NPSR1 gene and a high lactate level in women with endometriosis.

What Does This Mean for Patients?

In March of 2023, doctors at the University of Edinburgh announced clinical trials based on these findings that may bring new hope to millions of women across the globe. During the trial of 100 women from across the UK, half will be given a placebo and the other half a drug called Dichloroacetate, which aims to decrease lactate production and reduce the size of existing lesions. If successful, this clinical trial will see the introduction of the first non-hormonal medication for endometriosis in over 40 years.

Because of the invasive nature and extended recovery times associated with current surgical interventions for endometriosis, countless women are still daunted by the possibility of surgery. But surgical measures may also revamp in coming years, with Oregon State University Hospital having recently conducted groundbreaking procedures that saw the injection of nanoparticles into endometrial lesions within mice. If successfully rolled out, these new and minimally invasive nano cell procedures could offer a light at the end of the tunnel for people living with endometriosis.

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