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What Is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a problem that affects your reproductive organs and menstrual cycle. It can cause cramps and pain during your periods. Or you may have pelvic pain the whole month. If you have this problem and it’s not treated, it can affect your health. But with early diagnosis and treatment, it can be managed.

Cutaway view of uterus
The endometrium lines the uterus. It thickens every month to prepare for a pregnancy.

Cutaway view of uterus
With endometriosis, endometrial tissue grows outside of your uterus.

Understanding endometriosis

With endometriosis, tissue inside the uterus begins to grow where it should not. This endometrial tissue can also grow on the ovaries, the bowels, or on the walls of your pelvis. During your period, this extra tissue swells with blood. The tissue may also 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 bind organs together. It can also 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 also help restore fertility. Options include medical therapy, surgery, or both. Medicine may also help relieve some of your symptoms. Talk with your healthcare provider about these options.

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

Online Medical Reviewer: Burd, Irina, MD, PhD
Online Medical Reviewer: Goode, Paula, RN, BSN, MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2017
© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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