Many women may not know the name endometriosis, but they are familiar with the symptoms of the condition.
Simply put, endometriosis is related to the excruciating pain that some women feel during their menstrual flow.
The female gynaecological disorder affects one in 10 women of reproductive age and it is estimated that the world looses at least $100bn annually to the effects of this disorder.
This sounds unbelievable. But think aloud, how many times have you, a female colleague or friend have had to skip work, school or a business function because of menstrual pain that defied pain relief medication?
Endometriosis does not only affect the woman or girl, it also has consequences on her relationship with her family, employers, colleagues, friends, teachers and loved ones.
Doctors note that though the monthly flow may come with some discomfort it does not have to cause so much pain.
According to a consultant gynaecologist and fertility expert, Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, the condition is a serious female reproductive disorder, which occurs when the endometrial lining of the uterus spreads into the pelvic cavity, implanting itself on the pelvic structures causing inflammation and pain.
Ajayi says all these processes going on in and out of the endometrial lining cause either mild or very severe pains which can last for days, causing discomfort and cramps in the pelvic region and lower abdomen.
Other symptoms of endometriosis apart from painful menstrual periods, which cannot be relieved with the typical over-the-counter pain medications, include irregular periods, pelvic pain, or difficulty conceiving a pregnancy.
Without detection and treatment, he states, endometriosis can lead to chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and disability in affected persons.
As obvious as the symptoms of these conditions are, many do not know they have endometriosis even when it makes their lives a living hell.
Ajayi, who is also the Executive Director, Endometriosis Support Group Nigeria, notes that there is a need to raise awareness on the symptoms of the disorder among women.
The idea, according to him, is to enable those affected to seek medical treatment, care and support to reduce the frustrations that come with the condition.
He adds, "Endometriosis is not a lifestyle disease. It is not a sickness you get later in life. It attacks teens and young women when they should be active, working, having children and having sex. In fact, 50 per cent of women suffering from this condition are struggling with sex because it is too painful. It is also a major cause of infertility among women.
According to him, many women with the disorder are often diagnosed after several years and in developing countries like Nigeria, many cases are either misdiagnosed or not diagnosed.
He adds that even when detected, many women do not get proper treatment.
Ajayi says, "Even in developed countries, a woman may have suffered from the condition for up to eight years before she gets a proper diagnosis.
"In Africa, the situation is worse because very little is known about the condition. Therefore, many women live with it without ever going for diagnosis. Hitherto, the condition was believed not to be common among blacks. However, it has been discovered that no race is left out of this excruciating ordeal."
He adds, "Like many other disorders, endometriosis can be a chronic condition, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Many ladies can relate with the pains that come in the early hours of the monthly flow but when it goes on for days, medics say you should seek help from an expert, as endometriosis could lead to infertility, especially to those of reproductive ages.
Ajayi states, "It is a common condition that occurs in between five and 10 per cent of women within the reproductive age group (15 and 44 years) worldwide. Women with this condition have 20 per cent less chances of having children. This is why we should draw attention to the fact that early diagnosis and treatment is key to your being cured of this condition."
Apart from pain, experts state that women suffering from this disease may not enjoy sexual intercourse, hence, the need to get help as soon as possible.
Gynaecologists say that because it is not a life-threatening disease, the condition is often dismissed by doctors as "woman troubles", making it more traumatic for the sufferer to talk about it and seek treatment for it.
If you have been having painful menstrual period since your teens, it is time to do something about it. Forget about the myth. No one outgrows endometriosis and there is medical treatment for it.
Call a specialist for proper diagnosis today.