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Women’s health: what do women with endometriosis have in common WOMEN’S HEALTH: WHAT DO WOMEN WITH ENDOMETRIOSIS HAVE IN COMMON
Unfortunately, we know very little about the characteristics of women with endometriosis as no comprehensive research has been undertaken to study this issue. But the findings of several minor and non-comprehensive studies are outlined below.
Endometriosis usually only affects women during their menstruating years. It does not occur before the onset of menstruation and it is rarely found in women following the menopause.
Traditionally, endometriosis was said to be a condition of women in their 30s and 40s. Since the introduction of laparoscopy the majority of gynaecologists now believe that endometriosis most commonly affects women in their late 20s and early 30s. Furthermore, most gynaecologists believe that endometriosis is rare in teenagers and uncommon in women under the age of 25. But this belief is also beginning to be questioned.
Research by the Endometriosis Association shows that most of the women with endometriosis were diagnosed in their late 20s and early 30s. In fact, 55% were diagnosed between the ages of 25 and 34. The average time from the onset of symptoms to diagnosis was 6.8 years and 43% of the women believed that they had first experienced their symptoms before the age of 20.
The study also revealed that the women who reported their symptoms to a doctor before the age of 20 took an average of 8.8 years to get a diagnosis. In contrast, those who were aged 30 to 34 when they first reported their symptoms took an average of only 1.4 years to get a diagnosis.
It would therefore seem that women with symptoms of endometriosis are being diagnosed when they reach their late 20s and early 30s because that is when their doctors consider endometriosis as a possible diagnosis for their symptoms — despite the fact that they may have reported their symptoms for many years previously.
Consequently, the Endometriosis Association believes that endometriosis is probably more common in teenagers and young women under the age of 25 than is generally acknowledged.
This belief is supported by several studies which have investigated the incidence of endometriosis in teenagers with chronic pelvic pain. These studies have found that approximately half of the teenagers investigated for chronic pelvic pain had endometriosis. It also appears that endometriosis is being diagnosed more frequently in teenagers as more of them are given the benefit of a laparoscopy.
Traditionally, it was believed that endometriosis was a condition confined almost exclusively to white Caucasian women and that it was rare in Asian, Jewish and black women. Since the introduction of diagnostic laparoscopy it is now realized that endometriosis can affect women of all racial backgrounds.
Whether or not there are any differences in the incidence of endometriosis between various racial groups is not known because it is impossible to determine the incidence of endometriosis in women in general, let alone within particular groups.
Traditionally, it was believed that endometriosis was a condition that affected women who had delayed childbearing and that having children provided some sort of protection against developing the condition. It has now been shown that endometriosis is frequently found in women who have had children.
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