Friday, 6 March 2015

Kate Young, Dr Maggie Kirkman and Professor Jane Fisher have written for The Conversation

Kate Young, Dr. Maggie Kirkman and Professor Jane Fisher from Jean Hailes have co-authored an article for The Conversation discussing the need to explore avenues and strategies to support women living with endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a condition affecting women in which the endometrial tissue (tissue lining the uterus) develops outside of the uterus. The endometrium tissue generally responds to progesterone and oestrogen (female sex hormones). As women who suffer from endometriosis have the endometrium tissue growing outside of the uterus, these cells can also react to the sex hormones. The endometrium tissue can form lesions on various organs, causing bleeding and severe pain. Once this has healed, it can leave scar tissue.

The development of this scar tissue may form on the uterus, which can lead to the sticking together of the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowel and uterus. As such, menstruation can be highly painful, furthermore, the pain can be debilitating and women may not be able to attend work or go about their daily routine. The diagnosis of endometriosis can only be identified via surgery. The current treatments for endometriosis are surgery and hormonal therapy. There is no cure available and causes of the condition are unknown.

Discussing a previous systematic review conducted in 2014, the authors identified that endometriosis can impact all aspects of daily life. The research gleaned that education, management and recognition had a positive effect on dealing with their condition. A majority of females adjusted their schedules or altered their dietary habits. Some participants explained that recognition and understanding from individuals within their life had a positive or negative impact. Partners that learnt more about endometriosis and assisted them in the process was beneficial for them. 

The research also indicates that whilst endometriosis leads to high medical expenses, it can also lead to income depletion. Due to the debilitating symptoms which cause excruciating pain, women are unable to maintain their regular work schedules and may have to leave their position, leading to a lack of income and productivity. 

The systematic review has gleaned possible strategies that can be adopted to assist women in dealing with their condition and finding the correct support. To maintain a healthy work-life balance,women raised the issue of having the opportunity to work from home or less rigid work hours to accommodate any appointments they needed to attend. Furthermore, it was suggested that medical professionals could provide letters recommending different workplace guidelines that women could give to any employer or manager, allowing them to work around their endometriosis. Lastly, the results from the systematic review  highlight the stigma of discussing intimate relationships and sexual activity. Some females may not feel comfortable questioning the impact that the condition can have on their intimate activities. Therefore, a recommendation was raised that practitioners could initiate this discussion by questioning whether the female wanted to go through the possible impacts. 

The authors make clear that whilst the focus on identifying a cure is needed, there are multiple avenues to address the issue of endometriosis. It is crucial to develop long term strategies that women can adopt into their lives and their environment to support themselves in tackling the condition. These can not only assist women by creating more resources but can raise recognition and awareness of the condition. 

The article can be accessed here.



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