Endometriosis is a disorder where endometrium, the tissue that lines the uterus, grows outside of the uterus. Endometriosis is usually found in the pelvic region attached to ovaries, the bowels, or the pelvic walls. It can be found outside of the pelvic area, but it is relatively rare. Endometrium tissue thickens, breaks down, and bleeds during menstruation, even when the tissue is outside of the uterus.
This blood is released into the body with no easy way to escape. Overtime, inflammation and swelling may occur, leading to the development of scar tissue and adhesion (tissue that abnormally binds organs together). Endometriosis can cause pain that fluctuates throughout the menstruation cycle. It is estimated that between 10 and 20 percent of women have endometriosis.
The causes of endometriosis have not yet been discovered. While there are multiple theories, none have been confirmed yet. For a great overview of the different theories, I recommend the Vital Health Institute’s overview.
Symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Severe pelvic pain: It may be present only during menstruation or relatively constant.
- Pain with intercourse
- Painful periods (dysmenorrhea)
- Pain with bowel movements or urination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Constipation and diarrhea
Not all of these symptoms have to be present in endometriosis. While chronic pelvic pain is usually one of the best indicators, not all women with endometriosis have pain. Some women with extensive endometriosis may have few symptoms, while some women with mild endometriosis may experience most symptoms and constant pain. There is no correlation between symptoms and pain and how extensive the endometriosis is.
Personally, I experience pain every day. My pain is so severe during menstruation that my doctor recommended that I take birth control constantly, with no off weeks, so that I did not have to experience the extreme menstrual pain each month. Interestingly though, when I had surgery there was only a few small spots of endometriosis.