Endo in the Time of Coronavirus
I think its fair to say that the last few months have been…unprecedented, both in terms of the size and scale of the issues that the world is facing, and the degree to which it has affected individual peoples’ lives. The pandemic of coronavirus has also led to a pandemic of a different sort - a pandemic of misinformation. Because this new coronavirus and its effects haven’t been widely studied, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the virus, its symptoms and the conditions that it causes. This leads to gaps in our scientific understanding and it’s a sad fact that while the science catches up, some people and news media want to fill in those gaps with their own unfounded opinions, hearsay and profiteering.
Women with endometriosis may face some unique challenges during the coronavirus, so as many countries are now relaxing their lockdown, I wanted to take this opportunity to address some important points.
Firstly, a bit about the coronavirus itself. The coronavirus that has caused the current pandemic is actually called ‘SARS-CoV-2’ (also known as nCoV-19) which is a type of coronavirus (this type of virus gets its name from the Latin word ‘corona’ meaning crown, which refers to the spikey surface of the virus – see the image below). Coronaviruses are fairly common and usually cause mild respiratory infections like the common cold. There are many different kinds of coronavirus that already exist in nature, but sometimes viruses can ‘jump’ from being able to infect other animals to being able to infect humans, which has happened many, many times over the course of human history (for more information see here).
coronavirus image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/niaid/49645402917/in/album-72157712914621487/
COVID-19 is the name of the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 and is characterised by a severe lung infection and respiratory problems (for more detailed information see the National Institutes of Health information here). Developing new treatments for SARS-CoV-2 is tricky because it’s a new virus, so developing a new drug from scratch could a very long time. That’s why many groups are investigating existing anti-viral drugs to treat the new coronavirus but even this can take months before any clear results are found. You can see all the different drug trials that are going on in the US right now via this link, but most are treatments for the effects of COVID-19 rather than a virus vaccine.
What about people with endometriosis? Are there any special considerations? Firstly, and most importantly, there is no evidence to suggest that having endometriosis makes you more susceptible to the new coronavirus or that having endo puts you in a high-risk category for COVID-19. Current guidelines show that anyone can get the new coronavirus, but those who are over 65 or have any of the following pre-existing conditions are in the high-risk category
- Cadiovascular disease
- Chronic respiratory disease
- Renal disease
That said there are certain special considerations for people with endo. For example, endometriosis can, in rare instances, affect the diaphragm or, in even rarer instances, the lungs themselves. These types of endo are referred to as ‘thoracic endo’ and occurs in roughly 10% of women with other types of endo and around 0.1% to 1.5% of women in the general population. If you have this type of endo you may be considered as at a higher risk but, at the time I’m writing this, there is no information on how the new coronavirus affects people with thoracic endo. If you have thoracic endo it is safer to follow the guidelines for high risk individuals, such as self-isolation, minimising social contact, regular hand washing/sanitising and wearing a face mask when going outdoors. If you have any concerns about your current treatment or any symptoms you are experiencing, contact your doctor and explain you have a condition that may put you in a high-risk category. For more information on thoracic endometriosis, see the free review article here.
Additionally, research shows that women with endometriosis are known to have higher instances of asthma and certain autoimmune conditions. Therefore if you have a condition that you believe may put you at a highest risk of COVID-19, check with official guidelines, your doctor and with specialist organisation such as Asthma UK (link). As with anything I would also advise ignoring any medical advice posted on social media and to check that anything you read gives links to evidence-based research to back up their claims.
Image source: Madison Inouye from pexels.com
Aside from how coronavirus relates to physical health, it is especially important for people with endometriosis to consider the way in which coronavirus and the societal changes that have come with it, can affect mental health. Currently health service providers are under a lot of pressure, so disruption to services that people with endometriosis need, such as surgery, fertility treatments, pain clinics, and mental health services are potential extra sources of frustration during the pandemic. Studies have shown that women with endometriosis suffer from higher rates of depression and anxiety, so it is particularly important to be aware and care for your mental health at this time. If you find you are struggling with mental health there are several resources available
Resources from MIND (link)
Resources from Mental Health Foundation (link)
Resources from Rethink Mental Illness (link)
Resources for young people from Young Minds (link)
Resources for students (UK) from Student Minds (link)
The effects of this new coronavirus outbreak will no doubt be felt for a long time, and it will take some time for the world to get back to business as usual. In the meantime researchers are working hard to fill in the gaps in our knowledge, and should any of that relate to endometriosis, I’ll be sure to let you know!
Take care, be safe
Please note, the National Institutes of Health has a special page devoted to updates on scientific research and evidence for coronavirus and COVID-19 here.
Endo UK also have information relevant for people with endometriosis on their website
Endometriosis.org also post regular updates on novel coronavirus related studies and research that effect people with endo
Post title image from Anna Shvets at pexels.com