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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.

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

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 one 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.

Painful sex

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.

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