Endometriosis Explained

January 10, 2018

Approximately one in 10 women suffer from endometriosis: a condition that causes severe pelvic pain and is one of the leading causes of infertility.

Despite its prevalence, endometriosis is rarely talked about. March is endometriosis awareness month.

What is endometriosis?

The lining of the uterus is called the endometrium. In a typical menstrual cycle, the endometrium thickens every month in preparation for an embryo to implant. If a fertilized egg does not develop and implant into the lining, the tissue and cells making up the endometrium are shed during menstruation.

“When endometrial cells or tissues migrate outside of the uterus and attach and grow on other organs in the pelvis, it is known as endometriosis,” says reproductive endocrinologist Joe Karnitis, MD. “This abnormal tissue growth can cause severe pain and infertility.”

Signs & Symptoms

“While many women experience endometriosis symptoms in correlation with their menstrual cycles, some women show symptoms at other times,” says reproductive medicine nurse practitioner Erin Yontz, MS, APRN, CNP. “This can make the condition difficult to detect and frustrating for many women.”

Knowing the symptoms of endometriosis can help lead to an appointment with your doctor and earlier diagnosis and treatment. Symptoms include:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Heavy, painful, or extended menstrual bleeding
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Painful bowel movements or pain while urinating, especially during a woman’s period
  • Otherwise unexplained infertility

Diagnosis & Treatment

The cause of endometriosis is not fully known, but doctors have several tests they can use to detect the condition. There are medications and hormonal therapies available to help treat and manage symptoms. In some cases, surgery can be beneficial.

For more information, ask your OB/GYN.