Endometriosis is one of the most common causes of pelvic pain and infertility in women. Symptoms can include heavy and painful periods, painful ovulation, pain during or after sexual intercourse, chronic pelvic pain, fatigue, and infertility. These ongoing symptoms can also impact general physical, mental, and social well-being.
According to the World Endometriosis Society and the World Endometriosis Research Foundation, endometriosis “affects an estimated 1 in 10 women during their reproductive years (ie. usually between the ages of 15 to 49), which is approximately 176 million women in the world.” It is most commonly found in women in their 20s and 30s, though many women have been experiencing symptoms for years, sometimes from the onset of their very first period. Because there is no simple diagnostic test, there can be a diagnostic delay of up to 12 years in some healthcare settings.
So what is endometriosis, exactly? Per the World Endometriosis Society, it is a condition in which “tissue similar to the lining inside the uterus (called the “endometrium”) is found outside the uterus, where it induces a chronic inflammatory reaction that may result in scar tissue. It is primarily found on the pelvic peritoneum, on the ovaries, in the recto-vaginal septum, on the bladder, and bowel. In very rare cases, it has been found on the diaphragm and in the lungs.”
While there are hypotheses, the cause of endometriosis is unknown. However, most scientists agree that the condition is worsened by estrogen. Therefore, most current hormonal treatments attempt to limit estrogen production in order to relieve the symptoms. All therapies—including pain killers, oral contraceptives, progestins/progesterone, GnRH-analogues, androgens, and intrauterine devices—have varying degrees of effectiveness and may cause side effects. They may also be temporary. Once the drug use is discontinued, in most cases, the symptoms return. In more difficult cases, or when eradication of the condition is warranted, surgery is the only option.
Due to many issues in diagnosing and treating the condition, the 13th World Congress on Endometriosis pinpointed several priorities for future research. These priorities include increasing awareness among women and healthcare professionals, improving screening and diagnostic methods, determining causes, finding better treatments, and ultimately finding a cure. Research studies contribute to each of these, giving scientists and doctors more information from which to glean insights and obtain results.
Research is critical to improving the prevention, treatment, and eventual cure of endometriosis. Meridien Research has endometriosis studies that are enrolling now at our St. Petersburg location. For more information or to see if you or someone you know may qualify to participate, please contact us today at 727-347-8839 or visit our individual study pages.