Symptoms of diseases don’t always manifest themselves in every single person afflicted by them, and sometimes what looks like a feature of one illness might actually be a sign of another. Diagnoses can be complicated, but as a new study – spotted by ScienceAlert – has pointed out, sometimes we’re simply missing something right in front of our eyes.
Reporting in Human Reproduction, an international team of researchers found that a common symptom of an oft-misunderstood condition, one that affects hundreds of millions of women around the world, is regularly being left to the side by medical professionals: chronic fatigue. It's known to be a symptom, but it rarely appears in medical discussions or large studies.
That condition is endometriosis: It means that the tissue that lines the womb, the endometrium, is found outside of it, in areas like the ovaries or fallopian tubes.
As explained by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), the symptoms are often pain in your pelvic region – which gets worse during periods – pain when excreting, pain during or after sex, feeling sick, getting irregular bowel movements, having blood in your urine during your period, and difficultly getting pregnant.
Treatment options aren’t ideal. Painkillers can help in the short-term, but hormone medicines and surgery are also available. If left alone, it can be debilitating for many, and even those treated don’t have great odds. One study suggests that 20-50 percent of those that have opted for surgical or medical treatment experience a recurrence of symptoms within five years.
Although it can affect any girl or woman in any part of the world, it mainly appears in those of childbearing age, between 25-35 years of age. As many as 8-10 percent of these women have endometriosis, and yet few have heard of it.
A lack of awareness of the disease, despite its commonality, means that it’s a condition that’s seriously underdiagnosed. Even when it is diagnosed, this often takes an average of 10 years.
Not acknowledging how it manifests itself in its entirety makes dealing with it difficult, which is why this new study is so important. So what did it find?