Updated: January 9, 2018
Endometriosis is the development of uterine-lining tissue outside the uterus. The tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus, grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis. Rarely, endometrial tissue may spread beyond pelvic organs.
The clumps of tissue called implants go through the same growing, breaking down, and bleeding that the uterine lining or endometrium goes through during each menstrual cycle. Because these clumps of tissue has no way to exit your body, it becomes trapped. This is why endometriosis pain may start as mild discomfort a few days before the menstrual period and then usually is gone by the time the period ends. But if an implant grows in a sensitive area, it can cause constant pain or pain during certain activities, such as sex, exercise, or bowel movements.
Based upon the exact location, extent, and depth of the endometriosis implants, endometriosis is classified into four stages. The presence and severity of scar tissue and the presence and size of endometrial implants in the ovaries also be taken in to consideration.
These stages are minimal, mild, moderate, and severe. If there are superficial implants and mild scarring the stage is minimal or mild where as moderate and severe endometriosis typically result in cysts and more severe scarring.
The primary symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain, often associated with your menstrual period. Women with endometriosis will have menstrual pain which is worse than usual cramping.
Common signs and symptoms of endometriosis may include:
Pelvic pain and cramping may begin before your period and extend several days into your period. You may also have lower back and abdominal pain.
You may experience occasional heavy periods or bleeding between periods.
You are most likely to experience these symptoms during your period.
Pain during or after sex is common with endometriosis.
Endometriosis is first diagnosed in some women who are seeking treatment for infertility. Implants are often found in individuals during evaluations for infertility which are totally asymptomatic. Endometriosis may result scar tissue formation within the pelvis. The mechanical processes involved in the transfer of fertilized eggs into the tubes may be affected if the ovaries and fallopian tubes are involved. This diminishes fertility in many patients with endometriosis. The endometriotic lesions may produce inflammatory substances which adversely affect ovulation, fertilization, and implantation.
Fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating or nausea, especially during menstrual periods are some of the other symptoms of endometriosis.
Some women with mild endometriosis have intense pain, while others with advanced endometriosis may have little pain or even no pain at all. Therefore the severity of your pain is not an indicator of the extent of the condition.
Sometimes other conditions that can cause pelvic pain, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or ovarian cysts can be mistaken as endometriosis. It may be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which is a condition that causes bouts of diarrhea, constipation and abdominal cramping. IBS can accompany endometriosis, which can complicate the diagnosis.
Rare symptoms of endometriosis include:
The risk of developing endometriosis include:
Endometriosis affects women during their reproductive years. It usually develops several years after the onset of menstruation. Signs and symptoms of endometriosis end temporarily with pregnancy and end permanently with menopause.