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What Is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is when tissue from inside the uterus grows in other places in your belly. It can cause cramps and pain during your periods. Or you may have pelvic pain the whole month. If not treated, it can affect your health. With early diagnosis and treatment, it can be managed.

Side view cross section of woman's pelvis showing uterus and lining of uterus.
The endometrium lines the uterus. It thickens every month to prepare for a pregnancy.
Side view cross section of woman's pelvis showing inflamed areas of endometriosis.
With endometriosis, endometrial tissue grows outside of your uterus.

Understanding endometriosis

When you have this condition, tissue inside the uterus begins to grow in other places. It may grow on the ovaries. It may grow on your bowels. It may grow on the walls of your pelvis. During your period, this extra tissue swells with blood. It may release tiny drops of blood. The swelling and blood irritate nearby tissues. This causes pain and cramps. This irritation may cause scar tissue to form. This scar tissue can attach organs together. It can cause problems getting pregnant (infertility). 

Common symptoms

If you have endometriosis, you may have 1 or more of these symptoms:

  • Cramps and menstrual pain

  • Pelvic pain

  • Pain during sex

  • Painful bowel movements

  • Trouble getting pregnant (infertility)

Treatment options

Treatment may help relieve pain. It may help restore fertility. Options include medical therapy, surgery, or both. Medicine may help relieve some of your symptoms. Talk with your healthcare provider about these options.

Painful sex

Endometriosis can cause pain during sex. Try to see if sex at certain times of the month is less painful for you. Some positions may cause pain. Find out which positions reduce pain for you.

Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Irina Burd MD PhD
Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Cunningham RN BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2020
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