There's a little-known but extremely common disease afflicting 1 in every 10 women in the United States and costing the nation an estimated $119 billion annually. Many women struggle in silence, not even knowing they have it. The disorder is known as endometriosis and can affect women of all ages.
"So many women are unhappy. They lose work time; they lose productivity; they lose their jobs because of this disease," said Dr. Tamer Seckin, a renowned New York City–based gynecologist and endometriosis surgeon. "They shouldn't be discriminated because they have this condition."
The $119 billion cost estimate assumes 10 percent prevalence rate of endometriosis among women of reproductive age. Globally, endometriosis affects at least 176 million women, and experts believe the real number is higher due to undiagnosed cases. "Endometriosis imposes a substantial economic burden on society, mainly related to productivity loss," wrote researchers for Oxford Journals' Human Reproduction Update.
Endometriosis occurs when uterine tissue grows outside the uterus, potentially affecting other organs and oftentimes causing severe pain, especially before and during a woman's menstrual cycle. Symptoms include debilitating pain, infertility, changes in mood, painful sex and other issues that may interfere with daily life.
This painful disorder causes women to lose, on average, 10 hours of work per week, or one workday, to rest and see doctors, according to a study on lost workplace productivity. Women are oftentimes misdiagnosed, resulting in delayed treatment — and costs have been rising steadily: the estimated tab attributed to lost productivity and other factors was $22 billion in 2002.