Unmasking endometriosis, the much misunderstood ‘invisible disease’ that makes life misreable for women

Posted by Odimegwu Onwumere | 6 November 2015 | 4,523 times

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Miss Jane Kalio, a resident of Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, writhed in pains for years during her monthly menstruation.

She thought that it was normal to feel abdominal pain during a menstrual period. Apart from that, she had pelvic pain before and during the period, pain during sexual intercourse, pain with bowel movements, irregular bleeding, heavy periods, low back pain, sciatica pains, diarrhea and constipation.

What she did was to go get pain relief any time the pains were up. She had experienced the pains and the other complications for 15 years since she started menstruating and she’s now 30.

She had visited her doctor in several occasions, but was told that she was normal. Hence, for the 15 years, Kalio’s friends and she took the pains she had to be part of her growth.

Enlightenment comes Kalio’s way

Her story changed when the Endometriosis Support Group, Nigeria (ESGN), staged a programme tagged “EndoMarch 2015” this year.

The group held a breakfast at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, marking its sensitisation and advocacy campaigns for a period of 10 years on endometriosis.

It was while reading a comment in a national daily that was made by the “EndoMarch” Country Affiliate Partner Representative, Dr. Abayomi Ajayi that Kalio came to understand that she needed to take her case for further diagnosis.

Dr. Ajayi said that endometriosis is a disease that a predictably one in eight women and girls suffer from and it is so common with a minute population having the awareness of the disease.

“Endometriosis is a condition where endometrial tissue is found outside the uterus. It is trapped in the pelvic area and lower tummy (abdomen), not often in other areas of the body and cause pain and discomfort to sufferers.

“Some call endometriosis the ‘invisible disease’ because it is found within the body but the symptoms of endometriosis can be broken down into three: pain, irregular bleeding and infertility,” he said.

Kalio could not attest for her fertility potency since she was not married. Owing to the description of a carrier of the disease disclosed by the medical expert, Kalio went a step ahead for medical checks, only to be diagnosed of endometriosis.

Her doctors had been attending to her, since the find.

Challenges faced by Nigerian medical practitioners

Medical experts in Nigeria are burdened by the increase of endometriosis in the country. Regarded as one of the significant gynaecological problems that face women, Nigerian medical practitioners want the disease to be given the attention it deserved.

They are worried that endometriosis patients are often misunderstood and misdiagnosed, hence leaving the sufferers to continue to gnash their teeth with the pains that it causes.

The ‘misunderstood and misdiagnosed’ of patients in Nigeria was traced to a disclosure that endometriosis was not common among the aboriginal Africans. The worse is that many women are said to have endometriosis and have no symptom, given that the symptoms vary from one woman to another.

There is a prescription that endometriosis runs in families and is very exceptional in postmenopausal women and that delayed-conceiving period till older age contributes immensely to endometriosis.

Unavailability of modern medical equipments in the country and training of doctors to recognise endometriosis are challenges facing Nigerian medical practitioners; diagnosing endometriosis is on by laparoscopy in the country.

Sufferers disdained, abandoned

Kalio is one out of many ladies and girls living with this disease in Nigeria and are oblivious of what the matter with them is. They see the incessant pain and bleeding that monthly reoccur as part of their menstruating features.

The story of an endometriosis patient, Olamide Oluwatuyi was pathetic. An account she relayed to journalists in Lagos during the “EndoMarch” was that her problem started at the age of 12.

The troubled Oluwatuyi told newsmen: “I experienced the disorder at an early age, but didn’t know what it was. I had very painful periods and didn’t know why. Nobody knew why.”

Oluwatuyi said that her condition went on for donkey years till 2014 she came in contact with Dr. Ajayi, whom she described as kindhearted and confirmed her greatest fear.

“I went through surgery (laparoscopic surgery) that is really not as bad as people think. So when you experience this kind of pain from endometriosis, you need to get it investigated. It is not the end of the world,” she said.

Dr. Ajayi said that in the index of diagnosed patients in the country, 300 cases had been diagnosed (and treated) at Nordica Lagos and Asaba for years. He regretted that many ladies and girls who suffer from endometriosis are even treated with disdain by their family members and friends due to how often they visit the hospital and the pain they have that is in most cases not easily traceable.

“Before patients receive a correct diagnosis. As a result, women and girls suffer in silence and risk losing their organs, their pregnancies and fertility, jobs, friends and family support,” he said.

Endometriosis sensitisation across the country

Across the country, there are campaigns being staged to sensitise the masses of this dangerous disease; and there are the likes of Kalio who are yet to find out that their menstrual pains and irregular spotting are not normal but may be a sign of endometriosis.

Nigerian humanitarian organisations such as Non-Governmental organisations (NGOs) are not sleeping on their oars and allow the manageable disease, ravage the women world in Nigeria.

On 28 March 2015, they joined their counterparts across the world in the Endometriosis Worldwide March that took place in Washington DC, United States of America.

In Nigeria, there was a widespread of such demonstration and cross-section seminars that took place on 21 March 2015 at 12noon in Nordica Fertility Centres in Asokoro, FCT, Abuja, Asaba, Delta State and Ikoyi, Lagos respectively.

The purpose of the annual march christened ‘EndoMarch’ programme was to find the elusive cure for the disease and awaken public consciousness of the dangerous disease.

What endometriosis represents

Many women are being affected by endometriosis, which is a condition that affect women when the endometrial cells that usually reside in the endometrium or lining of the uterus, end up in other places in the body, said experts.

Apart from the pelvic region where it’s heralded that the disease is mostly found, checks by medical experts unravel that endometrial cells can be found in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix, bladder, liver, surgical scars, lungs and brain.

There’s a case where endometrial tissue was reported to have been found in the nose and the consequence was nosebleeds. From America to Africa, and from the United Kingdom to United Arab Emirates, cases of endometriosis is said to be the cause of more than 50 percent of women with infertility as millions of women are affected by the dreaded ailment.

Causes of Endometriosis and remedy

While the mainstream medical experts say there is no known cause for endometriosis, this is not the same view with naturopathic medical experts.

In a testament by the VitaTree Nutritionals, a division of R&J Nutraceuticals Inc., one of Canada’s leading manufacturers and distributors of natural health products and the pioneer of whole food vitamins with over 10 years of clinical research and experience, the naturopathic experts believe that endometriosis is caused by a combination of organ toxicity from environmental exposure to toxic chemicals like PCB's and dioxins, as well as hormonal imbalance, namely estrogen.

“There is also a component of inflammation in the body that can be linked to the cause of endometriosis. The good news is that naturopathic protocols including balancing the hormones, diet and specific nutritional supplements can help prevent and treat the symptoms of endometriosis,” a statement found on the VitaTree Nutritionals’ website stated.

The information further revealed that endometriosis diet limits pro-inflammatory foods and toxic foods. And sufferers and others should avoid foods that cause inflammation because of their link to the increase prostaglandin synthesis.

•Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet/Writer; he writes from Rivers State. (apoet_25@yahoo.com). Tel: +2348057778358.

Source: News Express

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