One in 10 women worldwide suffers from endometriosis. Why do we still know so little about it?
Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory gynecological disease that causes, among other things, severe pain in the lower abdomen.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says it can significantly impair quality of life by causing "severe pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety and infertility".
About 10 percent of women suffer from endometriosis, according to WHO. This represents 190 million worldwide.
What is endometriosis?
To understand endometriosis, it is important to first know what endometrium is. It is the mucous membrane that covers the inner wall of the uterus.
During the menstrual cycle and due to estrogen, the endometrium thickens to allow for a possible pregnancy. If there is no fertilization, the endometrium is eliminated and evacuated from the vagina.
In women with endometriosis, tissue with the same characteristics as the endometrium develops outside the uterus in abnormal locations, such as the ovaries, vagina, fallopian tubes, rectum, bladder, or intestines.
These tissues can cause nodules, cysts in the areas where they are found, or just extreme pain.
Common symptoms can be cyclical pelvic pain, pain during intercourse, or severe pain during menstruation.
There is no cure for endometriosis, but various medications can help manage its symptoms.
The first step is of course a visit to a gynecologist. Common treatment options available to women with endometriosis are surgery, hormone treatment, and other types of pain relief. But the condition can return even after the operation.