Endometriosis occurs when tissue (endometrium) normally found lining the uterus grows outside, in the pelvic cavity or elsewhere. It affects more than 10 percent of women, most in their 30s and 40s.

Pain, swelling, bleeding or spotting between periods, and difficulty getting pregnant may all occur due to the displaced endometrium. These endometriosis growths (endometrium) bleed every month in the same way your uterine lining does. This causes swelling and pain because the tissue is in an area where it cannot easily leave your body.

For women with endometriosis, adhesions and scar tissue may also form causing organs to grow together. They may bind an ovary to the side of the pelvic wall or extend between the bladder and the uterus.

This condition can affect your quality of life, impact relationships and make getting pregnant difficult. At The Christ Hospital Health Network, our expert physicians and specialists have the experience and skill to diagnose and treat endometriosis so you can get back to enjoying life.

Endometriosis causes

The exact cause of endometriosis isn't known, but it is thought to be a combination of factors such as:

  • Genetics—endometriosis has been shown to run in families

  • Immune system problems

  • Hormones—when endometriosis tissue grows outside of the uterus, it continues to respond to hormonal signals, specifically estrogen, from the ovaries telling it to grow

  • Displaced endometrial tissue—builds up and becomes trapped, causing inflammation, irritation and pain

Your gynecologist at The Christ Hospital Health Network will help you determine if endometriosis is the cause of your pain, then guide you through treatment options.

Endometriosis risk factors

Endometriosis usually develops years after the start of your menstrual cycle. Several factors may increase your risk of developing this condition include:

  • A short menstrual cycle (27 days or fewer)

  • Closed or blocked hymen

  • Fibroids
  • Mother, sister or aunt with the disease

  • Never having children

  • Periods lasting more than seven days

  • Starting periods at a young age

  • Uterine abnormalities

Endometriosis symptoms

Endometriosis growths bleed every month in the same way your uterine lining does. This causes swelling and pain because the tissue is in an area where it cannot easily leave your body.

The symptoms of endometriosis vary. Some women have mild symptoms, while others experience moderate to severe symptoms. The primary symptoms of endometriosis are pain and infertility. Pain from endometriosis can be severe and may result in:

  • Chronic lower-back and pelvic pain

  • Pain during a bowel movement or urination

  • Intestinal pain

  • Menstrual cramps

  • Pain during and after sex

  • Painful periods

When to see a doctor

If you have mild pain during your period, watchful waiting through several menstrual cycles and home treatment for mild pain may be all you need.

Make an appointment with your doctor if:

  • Pelvic pain interferes with your daily life and activities

  • You have blood in your stool or experience pain during bowel movements

  • You have difficulty becoming pregnant after trying for a year

  • You have pain during intercourse

  • You have pain or blood while urinating or can't control the flow of urine

  • Your periods become very painful

Do you think you might have endometriosis? Discuss your concerns with your gynecologists or make an appointment with one of our endometriosis experts.

Do you have more questions about endometriosis but not yet ready to make an appointment with a  doctor? Contact our ezCare Concierge nurse navigator, a free, confidential service designed to help you navigate the best next steps for you and your health. 

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