Endometriosis is when the tissue that usually lines the inside of the uterus – the endometrium – is displaced and grows outside of the uterus. The ovaries, bowel, and the pelvic tissue lining are commonly affected by endometriosis, although it may in some rare cases spread beyond the pelvic area. It is often a painful condition that impacts all aspects of their lives – school, careers, finances, relationships, and overall wellbeing. Each month, this tissue is meant to thicken, break down, and exit the body. Yet, because the tissue is displaced with endometriosis, the lining can have difficulty leaving the body. This can result in extremely painful cysts, and it can irritate surrounding tissues to the point of forming scar tissue or other unusual tissues that bind organs together.

Symptoms of endometriosis vary greatly from woman to woman. They include chronic and intermittent pelvic pain, which manifest into severe cramps that impact a woman’s ability to participate in daily activities. She may have to stay home from school, work, or other activities and endure long and heavy periods, nausea and/or vomiting, diarrhea and/or constipation, chronic lower back pain, headaches, pain associated with sexual activities and infertility or pregnancy loss. There is a lot of missing country-specific data, particularly in Africa, to give an understanding of how many women are affected on the continent (an issue Millen is addressing). However, it has been estimated that endometriosis affects 176 million women globally, and one in ten women in the United States.

Endometriosis can have a devastating affect on a woman’s personal and professional life. Infertility is one of its most common complications, affecting approximately one-third to half of those diagnosed. Furthermore, maintaining rigid or consistent work schedules can be intolerable under such painful conditions. Endometriosis creates many psychological, emotional, physical, and financial costs. Treatments are expensive, and not accessible to everyone. Furthermore, many women who are diagnosed are unable to discuss it openly and receive support.

To raise awareness and funds for Endometriosis, international fashion model Millen Magese launched #ManyFacesOfEndo. Magese has been suffering from the disease through most of her career and has undergone 13 surgeries already. Magese points out how large the problem of silence is as she says, “the stigma and ignorance surrounding the condition still holds so many women hostage within their own bodies for fear of ridicule. Being one of those women, I decided to make a change and speak out using the platforms I have been given through the fashion industry. I believe, my work within the fashion industry to create awareness could use a lot of support in shedding light on an issue so many women, even in the industry, suffer with in silence.”

There is still no clear answer as to what causes endometriosis and there is no known cure for the condition. There are some methods available to slow the progression of the disease and to manage the pain, but women often must go for multiple expensive laparoscopic excision surgeries in her lifetime and still often experience reoccurrences of the disease.

For more information about endometriosis, check out: http://www.endofound.org/endometriosis

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