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Endometriosis is Much More Serious Than Just “Bad Period Cramps”

by Voices Wellness 06 Apr 2022
Photo: Unsplash

Everything you’ve wanted to know about the gynaecological condition but were afraid to ask. Interview by SAMANTHA FRANCIS.

Period cramps, as well as pain during or after sexual intercourse, might be commonly dismissed as part and parcel of life as a female, but they shouldn’t be taken lightly. Launched in March, Bayer’s #DontLiveWithPain campaign aims to tackle awareness on the topic of endometriosis, a condition that affects up to 10 percent or 190 million women and girls of childbearing age worldwide regardless of their race, ethnicity, and social status. More than just terrible period cramps, it’s an often painful disorder in which tissue like the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus—the endometrium—grows outside one’s uterus.

We chat with Dr. Mee-ran Kim, professor in obstetrics and gynaecology at Korea Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital, to understand more about the condition and its misconceptions.

Photo: Dr. Mee-ran Kim

How does endometriosis affect women?

The discomfort and inconvenience women face because of endometriosis, from experiencing chronic pain, and digestive issues, to fertility complications and fatigue, hinders their ability to find normalcy in their everyday lives. This takes a serious toll on their physical and mental well-being in the long run, with some suffering from anxiety and depression. Hence, it is paramount that they seek consultation and treatment early instead of suffering in silence.

What sets endometriosis apart from simply “bad period cramps”?

Defined as a gynaecological disease in which the uterine lining and tissue grow outside the uterus thereby triggering an inflammatory reaction resulting in pain and adhesions, endometriosis is a serious condition that warrants professional care.

The most common symptoms of endometriosis?

While symptoms are immensely helpful in providing doctors with the first hint towards the diagnosis of endometriosis in their patients, it is crucial to note that diagnosis should not be determined through physical symptoms alone as they may not be exclusive to the condition. Instead, focusing on assessing a combination of patient history and clinical examination may be more effective in decreasing diagnostic delay. Some symptoms include painful menstrual periods (dysmenorrhea), non-menstrual pelvic pain or pain occurring when a woman is not menstruating, pain during or after sexual intercourse (dyspareunia), as well as pain emptying bladder/painful urination (dysuria).

What are some misconceptions people have about endometriosis?

Some of the common misconceptions include the belief that experiencing severe menstrual or pelvic pain is part and parcel of every woman’s menstruation cycle and speaking up about it is a sign of weakness. That is simply untrue. It is not normal for women to experience extreme pain during their menstruation cycle and voicing out the discomfort they feel is not a sign of failure, as endometriosis affects different women in varying ways.

Other common misconceptions include the belief that women cannot get pregnant if they suffer from endometriosis, and that it is an untreatable condition. While there is no cure for endometriosis, it is treatable and can be properly managed through early diagnosis and treatment.

Aside from endometriosis, what other potential health conditions should women of reproductive age be concerned with?

In the Asia Pacific, rapidly changing lifestyles and a fast-growing aging population in the region have led to a surge in chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, and cancer, with Asia accounting for half the burden of cancer worldwide.  For women, female-specific and non-sex-specific cancers of the breast, cervix, uterine corpus, ovary, colorectum, lung, and liver reportedly account for about 60 percent of cancer-related cases and deaths among women worldwide.

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