Endometriosis occurs when the tissues lining a woman’s uterus begin growing outside of the uterus. These tissues can then attach to any nearby tissues or structures – like the ovaries, bowel, or abdomen.

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Endometriosis is like having an impolite neighbor that doesn’t understand boundaries. Instead of remaining at home (in the uterus), these tissues know no limits. They’ll invite themselves onto someone else’s property with no regard for the chaos this causes.

“Technically, we diagnose endometriosis surgically, with laparoscopy. However, to avoid surgery, we tend to treat these things clinically. It’s important to remember that endometriosis will not show up on an MRI, it won’t show up on a pelvic ultrasound. But there are some markers that might make us suspicious for it. 

Endometriosis can cause women to have irregular menstrual cycles. Any pain related to the menstrual cycle tends to be very cyclic, very predictable. And that pain can be in different areas of the body – sometimes it can be back pain, pelvic pain, pain while using the bathroom, or pain during intercourse.” 

Jodi Ball, MD
OB/GYN, Trinity Medical OB/GYN

Here are 5 things you should know about endometriosis symptoms:

1. Endometriosis, as in, endometrium

The name of this condition stems from the endometrium, which is the lining of a woman’s uterus.

The uterus is one, if not the, focal point of the female reproductive system. When the uterus lining sheds, a woman experiences her menstrual cycle. If a woman is pregnant, the uterus houses the baby for nine months.

2. Endometriosis is largely underdiagnosed

Endometriosis symptoms mimic period pain, making the condition difficult to diagnose – for both doctors and patients! Additionally, it can go undetected for months, even years. Women may even have quite severe endometriosis without presenting any symptoms.

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3. When it comes to causes, endometriosis does run in families

Research shows endometriosis does have a genetic component – though that doesn’t always mean if a mother has it, her daughter will get it, and vice versa.

Additional causes of endometriosis are still being researched. However, one thing for certain is that an irregular menstrual flow is quite common amongst women with endometriosis. Examples are:

  • A period that lasts more than 7 days
  • Short time between cycles
  • Multiple periods within one cycle
  • Any health problems that would block/limit menstrual flow

4. Treatment options exist, however there is no cure

In some cases, if endometriosis has created enough of a tissue buildup, then it needs to be surgically removed. For women who are still suffering from endometriosis symptoms later in life, a hysterectomy may even be an option.

After you receive a diagnosis, your doctor will work to identify the treatment option that will be best for you. Sometimes hormone therapy can alleviate symptoms.

5. Endometriosis symptoms can vary

Not only symptoms themselves, but severity of symptoms can vary as well. However, it’s important to note that symptoms and severity do not necessarily reflect how far your condition has progressed.

Commonly reported symptoms:

  • Especially painful or heavy periods
  • Debilitating cramps
  • Digestive issues like diarrhea, constipation, or nausea
  • Pain during sex, urination, or bowel movements

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