According to the World Health Organisation, endometriosis affects 10% (190 million) of women of reproductive age worldwide. Endometriosis is a chronic gynaecological disorder in which tissue deposits similar to the tissue lining the uterus grow outside the uterus.
The tissue breaks and sheds blood at the end of each menstrual cycle, and when the blood has nowhere to pass through, it remains trapped and causes inflammation in the pelvic region. It often affects the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining the pelvis.
This estrogen-dependent disease is common with close to 10% of reproductive-aged women globally. It is often characterized by a painful menstrual period, heavy bleeding, abdominal bloating, pelvic pain, pain during intercourse, gastrointestinal issues and most of the time- infertility.
While these are likely symptoms, they vary from person to person, as some women may not experience significant symptoms. It is a condition that mostly occurs from menstruation or years after and may run through menopause. It often requires diagnosis.
Causes of endometriosis
Although there is no definite cause of endometriosis, when you have endometriosis, it means that tissues similar to the lining of your uterus grow in the wrong places. At present, endometriosis is thought to arise due to:
This is when menstrual blood containing endometrial cells flows back into the fallopian tubes and pelvic region instead of out of the body through the cervix and vagina. This may likely cause the endometrial cells to be deposited outside the uterus, where they grow and continue to thicken and bleed throughout each menstrual cycle.
Ways to prevent endometriosis
While there is no guaranteed way of preventing endometriosis, there may be certain actions that may help reduce your risk of developing or managing the condition. However, in some cases, you may still have endometriosis.
Lowering the estrogen level is one of them. This is because estrogen thickens the lining of your uterus during menstruation, and this is a potential threat. Another preventive method is maintaining a healthy weight.
Risk factors for endometriosis
Some of the risk factors for endometriosis include:
Delayed childbearing: According to research, women who have delayed childbearing have a higher risk for endometriosis than women who have given birth. This is a result of the fact that pregnancy pauses menstruation for a certain period. This break can help in reducing the estrogen level.
Family history of endometriosis: Studies have shown that genes play a role in endometriosis. Women who have female relations with endometriosis are more likely to develop the condition. It tends to get worse from one generation to the next. So, if someone in your family has a history of endometriosis, your risks are higher than someone who does not.
Variation in menstrual cycles: Women who experience a longer duration of menstrual flow, shorter menstrual cycles that last less than 27 days, or heavy menstrual bleeding lasting longer than 7 days are at higher risk. Also, the early age of menarche can be a risk factor for endometriosis.
Defects in the uterus or fallopian tube: Any health condition that restricts the flow of blood out of the body during menstruation also can be a risk factor.
Obesity or low body fat: The body mass index may increase your risk for endometriosis. This is why it is important to eat healthy and cut down on processed meals.
Estrogen level: Having a higher level of estrogen in your body can also contribute to endometriosis. If the estrogen level is high, the endometrium will be thicker and can trigger heavy bleeding, thereby posing a risk.
Other risk factors include environmental toxins such as dioxins, impaired immunity, iron and vitamin D deficiencies, and gene mutations.
Given that excess estrogen is a risk factor, exercise regularly. Exercise goes a long way in managing endometriosis. This is because it aids blood circulation, lowers the estrogen level and can help to improve the symptoms over time.
How much does it cost to treat endometriosis in Nigeria?
The cost of endometriosis treatment can vary depending on several factors: the hospital you choose, the severity of the condition, the location of the endometrial tissue, the type of treatment and how long it takes to complete the procedure.
In Nigeria, the average cost of treatment can range from N100,000 to N1,000,000 or more, depending on the factors above.
Treatment options may include prescribed medications, hormonal therapy, laparoscopic surgery, or a combination of all, depending on the symptoms or choice of the patient. In most severe cases, a surgery called hysterectomy, where the ovaries, uterus and cervix are completely removed, is usually performed.
Although there is currently no known cure, and treatment is usually aimed at controlling or managing the symptoms, early diagnosis is important. Sadly, this is limited in many settings, especially in low-income countries. If you have been diagnosed with endometriosis or are interested in its prevention, then a healthy lifestyle may help. Maintain a proper diet, especially fresh fruits and vegetables and meals rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish and nuts.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is endometriosis common in Nigerian women?
Yes, endometriosis is quite common in Nigerian women, although not many people are aware of it, thereby giving no chance for proper diagnosis. This stems from a combination of factors, including genetics, environmental factors, menstruation myths, and reproductive and lifestyle choices.
Does endometriosis have a cure?
Sadly, there is currently no known cure for endometriosis. However, there are treatment options available that can help to manage the symptoms and improve quality of life. You may want to speak to your healthcare provider about this.