For Those With Endometriosis, Lack of Access to Surgical Option Compounds the Pain (REWIRE)
By Nadra Nittle, Rewire in collaboration with California Health Report, September 7, 2017
At age 16, Paige Gibbons of Palo Alto, California, first began having the excruciating symptoms caused by endometriosis.
“I’ve had dysmenorrhea or painful periods,” she said. “I was blacking out, vomiting uncontrollably from pain, even with ovulation.” She spent her high school years in so much pain that she almost dropped out.
Twelve years later, she’s still waiting to have what’s often considered the most effective surgery to treat endometriosis—the delay a result of a long path to diagnosis and, now, lack of insurance coverage for the procedure that would give her the best chance for less debilitating pain. Gibbons has taken up to 20 Advil per day—more than the recommended maximum—to manage the condition.
Endometriosis occurs when tissue similar to the uterine lining travels outside of that pear-shaped organ to other body parts, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or bladder. Experts aren’t sure exactly what causes endometriosis, but various researchers believe it could be linked to genetics, environmental toxins, consumption of red meat, and even childhood abuse. An estimated 10 percent of women between ages 15 and 44 have endometriosis, which may cause not only pelvic pain but also gastrointestinal distress, abnormal bleeding, and infertility.
On average, it takes women up to ten years to receive a diagnosis.
“I had given up on gynecologists,” said Gibbons, who waited seven years for her diagnosis. “They all told me I was being dramatic, and the pain was in my head, even though I would go to the ER all the time.”