Endometriosis: Misdiagnosed and Misunderstood

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2 May 2023

Reading Time: 3 minutes

You’ve probably heard the term endometriosis at some stage throughout your life but the importance of the issue is oftentimes overlooked.

Endometriosis is a medical condition that affects women where the tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside of it, leading to painful and heavy periods, chronic pelvic pain, and possible infertility. The lesser known symptoms that the condition causes are fatigue, bowel and bladder issues, and pain during intercourse.

Endometriosis is extremely common, with statistics showing that globally it affects approximately 1 in 10 women! That number is painstakingly high, yet I can guarantee 1 in 10 women are not aware of what endometriosis is and the debilitating effect it has on women. Adding to this mess is the fact that unfortunately medical practitioners often misdiagnose it, or it goes undiagnosed, leading to delays in treatment and increased pain and suffering for those affected.

The exact cause of endometriosis is not fully understood, but there are several theories as to what may contribute to its development. One theory suggests that endometriosis occurs when menstrual blood containing endometrial cells flows back through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity, where the cells then implant and grow outside of the uterus.

This is known as retrograde menstruation. Another theory proposes that endometriosis may be caused by a problem with the immune system, where the body is unable to recognize and destroy endometrial tissue growing outside of the uterus. Other factors that may contribute to the development of endometriosis include genetics, hormonal imbalances, the use of contraception, environmental factors, and lifestyle factors such as diet and stress. While the exact cause of endometriosis remains unclear, research continues to explore these and other potential factors in order to improve our understanding of the condition and develop effective treatments.

We want you to be educated on the potential impact that endo has on a woman’s quality of life, fertility, and mental health. The pain and discomfort associated with the condition can be debilitating, making it difficult to carry out daily activities and leading to depression and anxiety. Endometriosis can also affect fertility, making it difficult for women to conceive.

Awareness of endometriosis is crucial because it can help to promote early diagnosis, proper treatment, and better management of symptoms. Increased awareness can also help to reduce stigma surrounding menstrual health and encourage open and honest conversations about women’s health issues.

In 2016, a feature length documentary film was made by Shannon Cohn. Cohn is a filmmaker and endometriosis patient herself so it really encapsulated the struggle in “Endo What.” The film features a number of experts in the endometriosis field as well as personal stories from various women outlining their struggles to provide a wealth of knowledge. This year, Cohn released a documentary series called “Below The Belt” which focussed on women’s reproductive health. The Endometriosis episode highlighted the various challenges like misdiagnosis, a lack of awareness and the sad reality that women living with endo face; such as struggling with chronic pain. With so many celebrities such as Lena Dunham, Padma Lakshmi and Aisha Tyler, this is a star studded way for you to get educated and empowered to make informed decisions about your own body and health.

Endo What Film

In summary, endometriosis is an extremely common medical condition with far reaching and debilitating effects. It’s super important to be aware of the symptoms and seek early medical advice, as commonly, the stage and severity of endo doesn’t exactly correlate with the pain or severity. Spotting the symptoms and being aware of endo is crucial because it helps promote early diagnosis and proper treatment. So with that, I encourage you to have conversations with the women around you about endo, and help to reduce the stigma surrounding these topics, and support women’s overall health and well-being.

Related article: The reality of having endometriosis in New Zealand

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