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Here are the answers to some questions people commonly ask about endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a common health problem that occurs when tissue from the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) grows outside of the uterus. Most often, this tissue grows on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the outside of the uterus, as well as on abdominal organs.
About 1 in 10 women of reproductive age have endometriosis. It affects more than five million women in the U.S.
Endometriosis can occur in anyone with a uterus, but it's most often diagnosed in women in their 30s and 40s. You may also be at higher risk if someone in your family has had endometriosis.
The most common symptom of endometriosis is chronic pain — usually in the pelvic region, and most often during menstrual periods. Some women with endometriosis have severe pain, and some have none at all. Other signs and symptoms can include:
A health care provider will most likely make a diagnosis by assessing your symptoms. So it's important for you to be as specific as possible about the symptoms you're having. A provider may do a pelvic exam or an ultrasound.
Sometimes a laparoscopy is used to diagnose endometriosis. A laparoscopy is a minor surgical procedure. A doctor makes a small cut in the abdomen and inserts a tiny light to look for growths from endometriosis. During the laparoscopy, the doctor may also do a biopsy, which involves taking a small tissue sample to test for the condition.
There are long-term ways to manage the symptoms of endometriosis, but there is no cure for it. Pain medication can help with mild chronic pain from endometriosis. Women with more severe pain may use hormonal medications, including hormonal birth control, to alleviate symptoms of endometriosis.
Surgery can be used to treat more serious cases. This involves removing endometrial growths. While surgery can help fertility and relieve pain for several years, pain often returns. In severe cases, a hysterectomy may be a last resort. This procedure involves removal of the uterus, and possibly the ovaries as well.
The following fact sheets are valuable resources for more information on endometriosis:
If you think you might have endometriosis, make an appointment with your health care provider.
Q&A with Dr. Cullins