Endometriosis: pain focus beyond fertility needed

endometriosis concept: woman in yellow t-shirt points to her belly

Sufferers and their health professionals could benefit by viewing endometriosis from a pain management perspective – not just a fertility perspective.

So says Donna Ciccia, director and co-founder of Endometriosis Australia, which is planning to raise awareness of the condition this March by encouraging Australians to wear yellow.

“The symptom all women with endometriosis have is pain in varying degrees, but not all women with endometriosis have fertility issues,” Ms Ciccia told the AJP.

“The pain has been described by Assoc Prof Jason Abbott as pain that is worse than that of cancer.

“It is a very real and debilitating pain which most women have had dismissed as just period pain. These women feel the guilt of not contributing to their families, friends and society and try to stumble through life in extraordinary pain.

“It is an insidious disease, a constant battle. It is an invasive disease that affects all aspects of a woman’s life.

“It can travel to most places in the body; it is not only limited to the pelvic cavity. It invades the bowels, bladder, ureters, ovaries, diaphragm, liver, pericardium, lungs, et cetera. It is an aggressive benign disease.”

But as pharmacists are well aware, chronic pain can be difficult to manage and comes with quality use of medicines baggage.

“Pain management is such a double edged sword: on one hand you need to alleviate the excruciating pain, and on the other hand it is a chronic condition so it needs to be managed well,” Ms Ciccia says.

“Women and pharmacists need to work together as a team to help come up with a workable plan to help manage the pain with the least long-term health effects for the individuals.

“Denying a patient pain relief in the fear they will become addicted is not helping the patient.

“It isn’t just bad period pain. Teamwork and education (about the disease) is the key for pharmacists to help their clients. If you’re concerned, contact their prescribing specialist and have a discussion.”

She says that creating a workable team forms long-term benefits for all concerned, which can help reduce the patient’s stress.

Pharmacists can be an important part of this team, and be engaged in assisting endometriosis sufferers to manage their pain, she says – and it’s important that sufferers and their families are aware of this.

“There is a very limited if any knowledge of endometriosis in the general community – it is a taboo topic,” she says.

“Women don’t talk about their periods, so the general community certainly aren’t going to talk about it.

“Please talk about it,” she urges pharmacists. “There are nearly 600,000 endosisters in Australia needing you to talk about it and to smash the taboo.”

March into Yellow, the Endometriosis Australia awareness-raising campaign, will see Australians seek sponsorship to wear yellow for the month.

“We also have an avenue for businesses to become involved and wear yellow to work on Friday 6th March with a small donation for the mufti day,” Ms Ciccia says.

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