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Endometriosis is when tissue similar to the kind that lines the inside of your uterus is found outside of your uterus. It’s a pretty common health problem that can be painful.

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What’s endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the kind that normally lines the inside of your uterus (called the endometrium) grows outside of your uterus, where it doesn’t belong. When you have endometriosis, this tissue tends to grow on your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the outside of your uterus, as well as on your abdominal organs.

Endometriosis is a fairly common health problem. More than 5 million people are affected by it in the U.S. It can cause painful periods, heavy bleeding, and even make it more difficult to become pregnant. There’s no cure for endometriosis, but treatment can help with the symptoms.

Who’s at risk for endometriosis?

Anyone with a uterus can get endometriosis, but most people diagnosed are in their 30s and 40s. You might have a bigger chance of having it if:

  • you've never had kids

  • your periods last more than 7 days

  • your monthly cycles are short (get your period every 27 days or less)

  • someone in your family has it

  • you have a health problem that keeps blood from flowing out of your uterus when you have your period

What are the symptoms of endometriosis?

Pain right before and during your periods is the most common symptom of endometriosis. Cramps aren’t fun for anyone, but with endometriosis, they can be even more intense. A lot of people also have chronic (ongoing) lower belly or lower back pain. Pain from endometriosis can range from barely noticeable to preventing you from getting out of bed in the morning.  

Endometriosis can also make vaginal sex uncomfortable. Other symptoms are spotting between your periods, having very heavy period flows, and infertility. Endometriosis sometimes makes it hurt to pee or have a bowel movement.

Some people with endometriosis don’t have any symptoms.

How does endometriosis affect fertility?

When you have endometriosis, tissue similar to the kind that normally lines the inside of your uterus grows in places it’s not supposed to — usually on your ovaries, fallopian tubes, or the outside of your uterus.

When you have your period, this tissue sheds and causes bleeding, just like the lining of your uterus does. But there’s no easy way for the blood to leave your body, so it can cause swelling and pain. This can lead to scar tissue that can block your fallopian tubes, making it harder for pregnancy to happen. A lot of people with endometriosis have problems with fertility.

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