Endometriosis is a condition where tissue grows outside of your uterus. The tissue is similar to the tissue that generally lines the inside of the uterus, the endometrium, and is often painful. Generally, endometriosis affects the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the tissue lining your pelvis. Occasionally, endometrial-like tissue can be found outside the area surrounding your pelvic organs.
What is Endometriosis?
In endometriosis, the tissue that grows outside of the uterus acts the same way endometrial tissue would. It thickens, breaks down, and bleeds during your menstrual cycle. When the tissue forms outside the uterus, it cannot exit the body and becomes trapped. When this condition involved the ovaries, cysts, or endometriomas, can form. The tissue surrounding the cysts can become irritated, forming scar tissue and adhesions. Adhesions are bands of tissue that can cause pelvic tissues to stick together.
Endometriosis is a painful condition, sometimes severely painful, during menstrual periods. Endometriosis can also cause issues with fertility. However, there are treatments for endometriosis.
But how do you know that you have endometriosis? What are the symptoms?
- Painful periods (dysmenorrhea) – Dysmenorrhea, or painful periods, is one of these symptoms. Pelvic pain and cramps begin before and extend several days into the period. Dysmenorrhea can also affect the lower back and abdomen.
- Painful Intercourse – Women with endometriosis often experience pain during or after intercourse.
- Painful bowel movements or urination – During your period, you might experience painful stools or urination.
- Increased Menstrual Bleeding – Occasionally, you might experience heavier periods or bleeding between them.
- Infertility – Endometriosis is often diagnosed in women who are seeking infertility treatment.
- Other Common Symptoms – Fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, or nausea during menstrual periods are other common symptoms of endometriosis.
The severity of your pain may not be a reliable indicator of the extent of your condition. You could have mild endometriosis with severe pain or advanced endometriosis with little or no pain.
Painful menstrual periods aren’t always the most reliable indicator of endometriosis. Mild cases of endometriosis sometimes come with severe pain. Other times, severe cases of endometriosis can be accompanied by little or no pain. Endometriosis is often missed by physicians. Many conditions cause pelvic pain. PID, pelvic inflammatory disease, and ovarian cysts also cause pelvic pain. It could even be confused with IBS or irritable bowel syndrome if you have bouts of diarrhea and constipation, coupled with abdominal cramping. IBS can accompany endometriosis, leading to complications in diagnosis. Many gynecologists will order multiple tests to rule out as many possibilities as possible when diagnosing endometriosis.
When Should I See My Doctor?
See your doctor if you notice that you’re showing signs of endometriosis. Endometriosis is a challenging condition to manage. The earlier you’re diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. You might face several tests to rule out every possibility, but knowing what the issues are can lead to successful treatments. Endometriosis can cause problems with fertility, and your doctor can treat your condition before this becomes an issue.