Friday, 2 March, 2007 The week commencing 5 of March is Endometriosis Awareness Week. Endometriosis is a condition that affects a considerable number of people, mainly women, around the world. Statistics in Malta for this condition are lacking but we know that a number of Maltese people have been diagnosed with endometriosis. As the name implies, Endometriosis Awareness Week was established to create more awareness about this condition. In 2006, the Endo Support Group was established here in Malta and this year will hold its next meeting during Endometriosis Awareness Week itself on March 9, 2007. Those who have already been diagnosed with this condition and anyone interested can attend the Endo Support meeting which is held regularly every two months. Endometriosis is quite a complex word even to write it or pronounce it. It becomes much more complex when one is diagnosed with this condition and is trying to understand what it means because so far there is no cure and no-one knows exactly what causes it. There are many theories but none of them is yet conclusive. Of course if one has this condition the symptoms are very well known to the person concerned. Unfortunately, however, such symptoms may be unknown to many others including people close to this person both at home or at work because awareness in Malta about this condition is still in its early stages. We do not have any statistics about endometriosis in Malta but we know that nearly two million women in the UK have been diagnosed with endometriosis and 14 million in Europe. Not a small number at all. Hence the importance of creating awareness about this condition. What is endometriosis? Cells like the ones in the lining of the womb are found outside it, mainly in the pelvic area but not necessarily. They could also be found in other areas such as the lungs and thighs. These cells respond to the monthly cycle. But unlike a period, the blood from these cells outside the womb have no way of escaping from the body. So a number of complications could arise including inflammation, adhesions and cysts. Endometriosis can develop at any age from the onset of menstruation to menopause. It could develop even after a pregnancy. When there is endometriosis there is an imbalance in the hormones. What are the symptoms? Symptoms vary from one person to another and also vary in intensity. Some experience severe pain whilst others have no pain at all. Some conceive without difficulty notwithstanding endometriosis whilst others have problems. A common symptom to many is very painful periods. People with this condition who have given birth have compared the pain of endometriosis to that of childbirth. Usually (but not necessarily) this pain is the first indication of this condition at an early age. Not everyone has all the symptoms and there are varying degrees of this condition from mild to severe. Myths about endometriosis 1. It can be cured - It can be treated and symptoms may be relieved but there is no cure yet; 2. Pregnancy solves the problem - Pregnancy could relieve the patient from symptoms during the term of the pregnancy because the monthly cycle is stopped naturally. But upon birth the symptoms can return; 3. It can be diagnosed via ultra sound - The only way that endometriosis may be diagnosed is through laparoscopy or laparatomy. How can it be treated? Treatments include surgery, drug therapy and complementary therapies such as acupuncture, homeopathy, yoga and nutrition. It all depends on the individual. The important thing is that help is sought from professional and qualified people in all cases. Treatment in many cases alleviates symptoms and the quality of life of women could be improved. However this is not the case for everybody because not everyone responds to treatment in the same way. Where does this leave people with this condition? If you are reading this article and you think you might have symptoms similar to endometriosis seek medical help. Do not accept pain as a normal feeling for women. If you have already been diagnosed with this condition you are not alone.