Did you know that 1 in 10 women of reproductive age have endometriosis? In the UK alone, over 1.5 million women suffer from this condition, and most of them get diagnosed years after their first symptoms appear.
Back to the basics
Let’s start from the very beginning. What is endometriosis, and why is it so hard to diagnose?
Endometriosis is a long-term condition in which tissues and cells, almost identical to those in the lining of the womb, begin to develop in other parts of the body, specifically the ovaries and fallopian tubes. In many cases, the growth of these tissues can cause extreme pain, and can completely throw off a woman’s reproductive system.
According to the NHS, the specific cause of endometriosis is yet to be determined, but some of the theories suggest that it could boil down to genetics.
The problem, however, lies with recognizing the condition. The symptoms of endometriosis, like severe cramps, body aches, constipation, and infertility, can be associated with other conditions as well. Hence, the possibility of one having endometriosis is often immediately dismissed, or worse, not even considered.
Living with endometriosis
What’s even more concerning is that many women are forced to livewith this painful condition for numerous years, before getting the properly diagnosed, and treated. Refinery29 spoke with photographer Ester Keate, who recently captured 18 women who have been living with endometriosis. Keate said:
I watched a good friend struggling with endometriosis pushing to be taken seriously by doctors.
She is such a strong woman and was able to fight to be heard but I just kept thinking how so many women would have just backed down after the first, second or third time they were turned away by doctors and told 'it's just period pains.
Millions of women around the world have been dealing with the painful symptoms from this condition. Unfortunately, the biggest issue they face is that no one believes them.
Last October, UK's Minister of Women’s Health, Nadine Dorries vowed to increase support, funding and research, to provide better solutions to women struggling with endometriosis. She stated:
I am committed to filling the evidence gaps to better understand the issues facing women and improve women's health. We have provided £2m, through the National Institute for Health Research, to investigate the effectiveness of surgery compared with non-surgical interventions to manage chronic pain in a specific type of endometriosis.
Currently, there is no known cure for this condition, but there are various treatments available to either remove endometriosis tissues, or to help women cope with the pain