What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) grows and implants outside of the uterus on other parts of the body. This tissue responds to the menstrual cycle the same way that the tissue lining the uterus does; each month, the tissue will build up, break down, and shed. However, unlike menstrual blood, which flows out of the uterus through the vagina, the blood and tissue from endometriosis has no way of leaving the body. Endometriosis is most often found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowel, rectum, bladder, or on other pelvic organs or surfaces in the abdominal area. That said, endometriosis has been found on every organ in the body, except for the spleen. This can cause internal scarring, painful periods, chronic pelvic pain, formation of adhesions (bands of scar tissue that connect organs), infertility, and other symptoms.

Endometriosis is common and impacts approximately 10% of women and an unknown number of transgender, non-binary, and gender-diverse individuals. Many people with endometriosis may not have any symptoms and may not realize that they have the disease until they are trying to get pregnant. Endometriosis can lead to infertility and other complications including:

  • Pelvic, lower back, or leg pain that occurs or is heightened during menstruation
  • Painful periods
  • Painful intercourse
  • Heavy or irregular periods
  • Painful urination or bowel movements
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety and depression

Even though endometriosis is common, it is a complex disease that can be challenging to diagnose and treat. Endometriosis can begin in adolescence, but often goes undetected or is inadequately treated for a long period of time. In teens, endometriosis is a common cause of chronic pelvic pain. Symptoms of endometriosis may be similar to other conditions, and because people often experience symptoms differently, it can be challenging to diagnose and treat endometriosis. If you suspect you have endometriosis, it is important you speak to your doctor to discuss care options.

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