What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a complex and often debilitating condition that affects individuals assigned female at birth. It occurs when the tissue resembling the lining of the uterus, known as endometrium, grows outside the uterus in areas such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, pelvic cavity, and even distant organs like the intestines or bladder. These growths, called endometrial implants or lesions, respond to hormonal changes and behave similarly to the endometrium in the uterus. However, unlike the uterine lining that sheds during menstruation, the displaced endometrial tissue has no exit route, leading to inflammation, pain, and the formation of scar tissue.
The symptoms of endometriosis can vary from person to person, but commonly include pelvic pain, particularly before and during menstruation, painful intercourse (dyspareunia), heavy or irregular menstrual periods, chronic pelvic pain outside of menstruation, and gastrointestinal or urinary symptoms. Endometriosis can also be associated with infertility or difficulties in conceiving.
Endometriosis is widely recognized as a chronic condition that requires ongoing management and care. Chronic conditions are characterized by their long-lasting nature, often persisting for months or years, and typically have no known cure. Endometriosis fits into this category as it is a condition that individuals may live with for an extended period.
One of the defining aspects of endometriosis as a chronic condition is its tendency to recur and progress over time. The endometrial implants that develop outside the uterus can continue to grow, causing inflammation, the formation of scar tissue (adhesions), and ongoing symptoms. These symptoms, such as pelvic pain, pain during intercourse, and menstrual irregularities, can fluctuate in intensity throughout the menstrual cycle but may persist even outside of menstruation.
The prevalence of endometriosis worldwide is estimated to be approximately 10% among women of reproductive age. However, it is important to acknowledge that obtaining precise prevalence figures can be challenging due to various factors. These factors include the use of different diagnostic criteria, varying study populations, and the possibility of underdiagnosis or misdiagnosis, as endometriosis can often be mistaken for other conditions.
In Singapore, while there is limited local data on the prevalence of endometriosis, it is believed to be consistent with global estimates. In recent years, there has been increasing awareness and recognition of endometriosis as a significant health concern in Singapore. Efforts have been made to improve education and awareness among healthcare professionals, as well as the general public, to promote early detection, accurate diagnosis, and appropriate management of endometriosis.
To obtain an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan, individuals experiencing symptoms of endometriosis should consult with healthcare professionals specializing in gynecology or reproductive health. These specialists can conduct a thorough medical history review, physical examination, and may recommend further diagnostic tests such as imaging studies or laparoscopic surgery for definitive diagnosis.
Overall, the understanding and management of endometriosis are evolving, and ongoing research aims to improve the quality of life for individuals affected by this condition.