More awareness needed in the fight against endometriosis

Nairobi based gynecologist Dr. Wanyoike Gichuhi illustrates how endometriosis occurs.

Endometriosis is a condition affecting 176 million globally. One in 10 women of childbearing age suffers from some form of it. Endometriosis occurs when cells that normally line the womb are found elsewhere, usually in the pelvis around the womb, ovaries and fallopian tubes.

CGTN’s Interview with gynecologist Dr Wanyoike Gichuhi.

Dr. Wanyoike Gichuhi, a Nairobi-based gynecologist, says there is no known cause of endometriosis but it is highly likely that certain genes predispose women to develop the disease. Women whose mothers and siblings have endometriosis have a higher risk of also developing endometriosis. Dr. Gichuhi adds that it is possible that age when the menstrual period starts, other gynecologic factors, and environmental exposures influence whether a woman is affected.

The issue can greatly inhibit a woman’s ability to conceive.

‘’It’s a chronic illness, says Dr. Gichuhi. “For every 10 women you see with endometriosis, 4 will have problems with conception, so the earlier they conceive the better.”

Some symptoms of endometriosis include painful periods, painful ovulation, pain during or after sexual intercourse, heavy bleeding, chronic pelvic pain, fatigue and infertility. The condition can also negatively impact a woman’s mental and social wellbeing.

“With endometriosis its pain that is not responsive to medication. One will take an anti-inflammatory drug like Brufen but often it’s not going to work at all, that is a significant pain. You will find that the pain is still persistent, pain which will wake you up at night. You can’t go to school, college, cannot go to work that’s not natural and you need to seek medication”, Dr. Wanyoike says.

There is no known cure and, although endometriosis can be treated effectively with drugs, most treatments are not suitable for long-term use due to side-effects. Surgery can be effective to remove endometriosis lesions and scar tissue, but success rates are rare.

March was endometriosis awareness month. And Dr. Wanyoike now hopes that proper information can be made available to women about they can get earlier diagnosis and treatment.  He lauds organizations such as the Endometriosis Foundation of Kenya, which are on the frontline helping sufferers.

“The challenge we have in Kenya or Africa is we don’t have centers of excellence similar to what exists in Europe and America. Doctors there are very experienced. Endometriosis surgery, as far as gynecologists are concerned, is more complex.”

He also stresses the need for public policies that will address endometriosis treatment.