– EN Fitness & Wellbeing – Women with endometriosis often go undiagnosed for a decade, according to a new review by U.S. scientists.
The chronic disease caused by tissue similar to that found in the uterus grows outside the womb affects almost 10 per cent of reproductive-age women, making an estimated total of 200 million worldwide.
Sufferers, like Girls creator Lena Dunham, who has spoken out about her battle with the condition, deal with symptoms that may include infertility, chronic pelvic pain, painful periods, painful sex, back pain, and intestinal problems. However, an expert review conducted by America’s Society for Women’s Health Research found that women with endometriosis experience, on average, delays of seven to 12 years from when they first feel symptoms to diagnosis.
“Some women suffer from extremely painful endometriosis symptoms for more than a decade, in part because societal stigma around menstruation and painful sex may make them reluctant to discuss symptoms or seek care,” Dr. Rebecca Nebel, the Society’s director of scientific programs said. “In addition, women who do bring up their symptoms may fall victim to the well-documented clinical gender bias that has resulted in some women’s pain being dismissed or inadequately treated.”
A lack of early diagnosis, and the stigma around many of its symptoms is just one of several barriers to care identified in helping those with a disease that costs an estimated $69.4 billion (£52.4 billion) per year to treat in the U.S. alone. Others include a lack of research into the causes of the disease, and the fact that there is no easy way to diagnose it without invasive surgery.
“Despite its significant burden on women, their families, and society as a whole, endometriosis is underfunded and under-researched, greatly limiting understanding of the disease and slowing much-needed innovation in diagnostic and treatment options,” Dr. Nebel added.
The authors of the review, which is published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, called for greater funding for research into non-invasive diagnostic techniques, the causes of the disease, as well as education for patients and the public.