Donegal woman Kathleen King is the Chairperson of the Endometriosis Association of Ireland. Here, she explains the realities faced by the one in ten women who have the condition.
March 2017 is Worldwide Endometriosis month, presenting a cause for millions of women to speak out and raise awareness of the condition. Kathleen King has been living with Endometriosis for 28 years, ever since her first period. Here, she tells Donegal Woman readers what we need to know about Endometriosis:
If you know 10 women, you know endometriosis. Do you or a friend have to miss out on family or social events due to pain around the time of ovulation or your period?
Endometriosis is a condition with a similar incidence to diabetes or asthma, yet most people have never heard of it and could not tell you anything about it. March is the month chosen to raise awareness of endometriosis worldwide.
Here are some of the key facts:
1. Severe pain with periods is NOT normal. Pain that causes you to miss social or family events or pain that is not relieved by over the counter painkillers can be a sign of endometriosis.
2. Pain can be linked to your period, ovulation but also at other times of the cycle. The pain is usually pelvic, lower back and legs.
3. Pain during or after sex is not normal, and as it is not something we chat about a lot to our friends or even our partners, it can go unreported to GPs.
4. Pain during or after a bowel movement / urination can be symptoms of endometriosis. Passing blood from the rectum or in the urine may also be a sign.
5. Other symptoms include fatigue, severely bloated belly, irritable bowel type symptoms
6. In Ireland it can take an average of 9 years to be diagnosed.
7. It is one of the leading causes of infertility, but not every woman with endometriosis is infertile.
8. It can only be diagnosed by a laparoscopy (key hole surgery to look inside the pelvis) and biopsies sent to the lab. It does not normally show up on MRI or Ultrasound, but some cysts may show up.
9. Pregnancy, hysterectomy, removing the ovaries, taking the pill, using the coil, menopause – none of these will “cure” endometriosis.
10. Endometriosis can be managed by skilled surgeons with experience in excision surgery.
11. There are lots of self help options, starting with the Endometriosis Association of Ireland for information.
As chairperson of the EAI, I am fortunate to live in Donegal where we have a good support network of women living with endometriosis.
I have been living with this condition since my first period, when I was 12. I was diagnosed in Derry when I was 20 after attending various GPs all around the country.
I have had several surgeries to remove my endometriosis and treat the chronic pelvic pain that has resulted.