Each month, Titi Delani, aged 17, undergraduate, often misses her lectures at least for two days because of complaints from painful menses. Worse still, the pain relieving drugs recommended by her doctor could not ameliorate the situation.
Titi as she is fondly called represent millions of women and girls, who are monthly, trapped by the debilitating disorder, medically termed – endometriosis.
Simply put, endometriosis is related to the excruciating pains that some women experience during menstrual flows.
How many times have your wife, sisters, daughters, granddaughters and great grand daughters have had to skip work, business or social functions and even school because of menstrual pains that have defied pain relief medication?
The name which is jaw-breaking is not also common, but the symptoms are rampant. One in every 10 women of reproductive ages, suffers symptoms of the health disorder, which is inexplicably unknown to several people. Even some of those in the medical circles began only lately to identify the symptoms and pay proper attention to the health condition.
The hidden toll and extraordinary neglect of this condition leave millions of women across the world, in pains, debilitated and sometimes cause infertility. Regrettably, some primary care doctors often do not know what it is and the specialists to whom patients are sent are not simply thinking of it. It is estimated that the world loses at least $100bn annually to the effects of the female gynaecological disorder.
Endometriosis does not only affect the woman or girl, it also has consequences on her relationship with her family, employers, colleagues, friends, and teachers and loved ones.
Doctors note that though the monthly flow may come with some discomfort it does not have to cause so much pain.
According to the Managing Director, Nordica Fertility Centre, Lagos, a clinic that specialises in In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and treatment of infertility for the couples facing fertility problem, Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, the condition is a serious female reproductive disorder, which occurs when the endometrial lining of the uterus spreads into the pelvic cavity, implanting itself on the pelvic structures causing inflammation and pain.
The consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist says all these processes going on in and out of the endometrial lining cause either mild or severe pains which can last for days, causing discomfort and cramps in the pelvic region and lower abdomen.
Other symptoms of endometriosis apart from painful menstrual periods, which cannot be relieved with the typical over-the-counter pain medications, are irregular periods, pelvic pain, or difficulty conceiving a pregnancy.
Without detection and treatment, endometriosis can lead to chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and disability in affected persons, the obstetrician states.
Ajayi, who is also the Executive Director, Endometriosis Support Group Nigeria (ESGN), notes that there is a need to raise awareness on the symptoms of the disorder among women.
He adds this year’s theme is ‘End the Silence’ is geared toward creating awareness of the disease, stating that “any woman of reproductive age who is free of this trauma should count herself especially lucky and continue to count her blessings.”
Speaking during a media briefing in Lagos to mark this year’s Endometriosis Support Group Nigeria (ESGN) activities, Dr. Ajayi says the aim is to fight the challenge of Endometriosis in Nigeria and West Africa.
The idea, he continues, is to enable those affected to seek medical treatment, care and support to reduce the frustrations that come with the condition.
He adds: “Endometriosis is not a lifestyle disease. It is not a sickness you get later in life. It attacks teens and young women when they should be active, working, having children and having sex. In fact, 50 per cent of women suffering from this condition are struggling with sex because it is too painful. It is also a major cause of infertility among women.
According to him, many women with the disorder are often diagnosed after several years and in developing countries like Nigeria, many cases are either misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all.
The Executive Director ESGN further says: “Like many other disorders, endometriosis can be a chronic condition, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. He adds that even when detected, many women do not get proper treatment.
“Even in developed countries, a woman may have suffered from the condition for up to eight years before she gets a proper diagnosis, Ajayi states. “In Africa, the situation is worse because very little is known about the condition. Therefore, many women live with it without ever going for diagnosis.
Hitherto, the condition was believed not to be common among blacks. However, it has been discovered that no race is left out of this excruciating ordeal.” “It is a common condition that occurs in between five and 10 per cent of women within the reproductive age group (15 and 44 years) globally. Women with this condition have 20 per cent less chances of having children.
This is why we should draw attention to the fact that early diagnosis and treatment is key to your being cured of this condition,” Ajayi affirms. According to experts, women suffering from this disease may not enjoy sexual intercourse; therefore, there is the need to get help as soon as possible.
Since it is not a life-threatening disease, the condition is often dismissed by doctors as “woman troubles”, making it more traumatic for the sufferer to talk about it and seek immediate treatment, according to gynaecologists.
Have you been experiencing painful menstrual period since your teens? It could be signs of endometriosis, regardless of your age. Call a specialist for proper diagnosis and help today. It is time to act!
This story was published in Newswatch Times on February 18, 2016.