Endometriosis is a complex fertility challenge, with many possible causes and different women affected. The latest research finds up to 10% of women have endometriosis!
This article discusses the many faces of endometriosis, as well as common illness features to look for. It also covers how diagnosis and treatment must change to meet the needs of the women who have it.
Endometriosis: A Career Woman’s Problem?
Once considered to be a career woman’s problem, today we know this may only be because career women have had the resources to pursue diagnosis and treatment. Current research shows it takes 8-10 years and 3-4 different doctors before endometriosis is properly diagnosed!
Endometriosis truly affects all types of women from all types of backgrounds. Earlier life or frequent pregnancies may offer some protection, but hormone changes after childbirth often lead to a return in symptoms for women with endometriosis.
Does Ethnicity Play a Role in Endometriosis?
Early research suggests ethnicity could be a factor, but the results are not conclusive:
- Limited research suggests Asian women may be at a slightly higher risk than Caucasian women.
- Further, African-indigenous women seem to have a low incidence of endometriosis.
- However, in the US, African American women experience a high rate of hysterectomies related to endometriosis.
While the issue needs more examination, the rates of endometriosis in different communities may also be related to lifestyle factors, available resources for diagnosis, as well as disparities in proper medical care. In my viewpoint, this needs to change for all of the women who are suffering!
What We Know About Endometriosis
We still have much more to learn about endometriosis. Genetics and family history can play a role, but there are other common features to look for:
- Inflammatory Disease- Endometriosis is a chronic, inflammatory condition characterized by increased free radical activity in the body. Endo inflammation can lead to scarring, adhesions, and fibrosis around the abdominal cavity and reproductive organs. Getting inflammation under control and increasing antioxidant intake are keys to recovery.
- Hormone Imbalance- Endometriosis occurs more often in women with excess estrogen levels or who have an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone (estrogen dominance). Reducing hormone excesses and imbalance can lead to a dramatic reduction in symptoms for many women.
- Imbalanced Immune Response- Poor or imbalanced immune response is a regular feature of endometriosis. Endometriosis is more common in women with a history of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Interstitial Cystitis (IC), migraines, Candida and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)- all conditions tied back in part to immune problems. While endometriosis itself may trigger or worsen these concerns, encouraging normal immune response is an important part of recovery from endometriosis.
Endometriosis stages and symptoms need deeper analysis!
Experts have long used the stages of endometriosis as a gauge for determining the progression of the illness. While this is a useful tool, endometriosis does not always follow the same pattern. Some women with Stage 1 endometriosis experience a high level of pain while some with Stage 4 may only discover they have it through exploratory surgery.
A growing number of specialists feel it is time to develop endometriosis phenotypes (sub groups) and specialized treatments to cater to them. There is clearly no “one size fits all” successful approach, and women need more options early in their treatment.
What We Want You To Know
If you have endometriosis, you’re not alone. There is a community of women all around the world walking this journey with you. Whether your goals are to reduce pain, improve fertility chances or both, the most important step is to remain proactive about your care. Whether you pursue medical treatments, natural therapies or a combination of approaches, stay vigilant and consistent with your therapy choices. Stay in communication with your health care practitioner or find a new one if your needs are not being met. It does take time and commitment, but you can recover and rebuild your reproductive health and fertility after an endometriosis diagnosis.
- Gerlinger, C. et al. (2012, April). Treatment of endometriosis in different ethnic populations: a meta-analysis of two clinical trials. BMC Womens Health. 2012; 12: 9. doi: 10.1186/1472-6874-12-9 Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3470994/
- Progress in endometriosis, but a vital step is missing. (2017). Retrieved from: http://endometriosis.org/news/congress-highlights/asrm2017-progress-in-endometriosis/
- Arumugan, K. et al (1992, May). Endometriosis and Race. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 1992 May;32(2):164-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1479-828X.1992.tb01932.x Retrieved from: https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1479-828X.1992.tb01932.x
- Black Women and Endometriosis. (2018). Retrieved from: https://blackdoctor.org/512062/black-women-endometriosis/
- Kyama, M.C. et al. (2004). The prevalence of endometriosis among African-American and African-indigenous women. Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation. 2004;57(1):40-2. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7884268_The_Prevalence_of_Endometriosis_among_African-American_and_African-Indigenous_Women
- The Path To Diagnosis May Not Always Be Simple. (2018). Retrieved from: https://www.speakendo.com/about-endometriosis/testing