Endometriosis happens when endometrial tissue (which is part of the uterus lining that’s shed during your menstrual period) grows someplace where it shouldn’t, like your abdomen (the most common place), ovaries, pelvic ligaments, and muscle tissue in your uterus. It can affect any woman who is of childbearing age —from their first menstrual period to the time they reach menopause.
Just like the lining of your uterus, this tissue builds and sheds in tune with your menstrual cycle. But while the lining of your uterus is shed through your vagina, this tissue has no way of leaving your body, and then cause inflammation and scaring. This is why endometriosis can be very painful, and lead to fertility problems (including infertility).
Endometriosis symptoms and pelvic pain
While pelvic pain can be a sign of different problems, it is the most common endometriosis symptom. However, not every woman with endometriosis will experience pelvic pain — or any other symptom for that matter.
The pelvic pain associated by endometriosis can be:
- Severe and painful menstrual cramps — start earlier (like when you ovulate) and last longer than normal menstrual cramps and are so severe that even medication may not help
- Chronic pelvic pain - that’s not linked to your period at all
- During or after sexual intercourse
- While urinating or having a bowel movement
- In your lower back
Other endometriosis symptoms include:
- Rare symptoms — leg pain, shortness of breath, blood in your urine or from your rectum
Diagnosis and treatment
What causes endometriosis? No one really knows. And while there is currently no cure, lifestyle changes and treatment may provide relief.
Helpful lifestyle choices and changes
Some women with endometriosis find that certain lifestyle changes help them relieve pelvic pain and other symptoms. Try these helpful tips:
- Stick to a healthy diet — include Omega-3 rich foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, avocados and some fish for their “anti-inflammatory” benefits
- Exercise regularly — and trigger pain-reducing endorphins
- Use relaxation techniques — including meditation
- Try alternative therapies for pain — speak to your healthcare provider first
- Keep a diary — list information about your symptoms (including what makes your it better or worse) may help you identify patterns.
Want more information and support? Search “endometriosis” in Find Support for organizations in your area.