Endometriosis is an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the tissue lining your pelvis. Rarely, endometrial tissue may spread beyond pelvic organs.
The exact number of women who develop endometriosis is not known. This is because many women have endometriosis without symptoms, or with mild symptoms, and are never diagnosed.
If symptoms develop they typically begin between the ages of 25-40. Sometimes symptoms begin in the teenage years. Endometriosis can affect any woman. Currently we do not know what causes endometriosis. Most experts agree that there are many responsible factors, possibly including genetic, immunological, and hormonal reasons.
Patches of endometriosis tend to be 'sticky' and may join organs to each other. The medical term for this is adhesions. For example, the bladder or bowel may 'stick' to the uterus. Large patches of endometriosis may form into cysts which bleed each month when you have a period.
Common signs and symptoms of endometriosis may include:
- Painful periods (dysmenorrhea). Pelvic pain and cramping may begin before your period and extend several days into your period. You may also have lower back and abdominal pain.
- Pain with intercourse. Pain during or after sex is common with endometriosis.
- Pain with bowel movements or urination. You're most likely to experience these symptoms during your period.
- Excessive bleeding. You may experience occasional heavy periods (menorrhagia) or bleeding between periods (menometrorrhagia).
- Infertility. Endometriosis is first diagnosed in some women who are seeking treatment for infertility.
- Other symptoms. You may also experience fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating or nausea, especially during menstrual periods.
Treatment for endometriosis is usually medications or surgery. The approach you and your doctor choose will depend on the severity of your signs and symptoms and whether you hope to become pregnant. Generally, doctors recommend trying conservative treatment approaches first, opting for surgery as a last resort.
If you've experienced any of the symptoms mentioned above or have concerns about endometriosis, schedule an appointment and talk to one of our doctors. He or she will know which tests or treatments are right for you.