Endometriosis is a condition that occurs when the lining of the uterus implants on places it shouldn’t, like the bowel, bladder, ovaries and other parts on the body. When a woman with endometriosis has her period, these tissue implants outside the uterus essentially go through a menstrual cycle of their own—the material builds up, breaks down and sheds. Since the blood and tissue have no way of leaving the body, it causes added pain and inflammation.
Thanks to celebrities, like Lena Dunham and Julianne Hough, who’ve publically shared their struggles with endometriosis, the term is becoming more familiar. When it comes to self-care, familiar is good, but being informed (especially about a condition that affects nearly 5 million women in the U.S. alone) is better. Here’s what you really need to know about endometriosis.
- It’s common. Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women and is a leading cause of infertility.
- The symptoms vary. The most common symptom is pain (ranging from mild to severe), usually in the pelvic region, right before and during menstrual periods. Other symptoms include spotting or bleeding between periods, pain during sex, abdominal pain, fatigue and in some cases infertility.
- Hormonal birth control can help. There is no cure, but the chronic pain caused by endometriosis can be managed with hormonal birth control.
- It can affect any female. Endometriosis is most common among women in their 30s and 40s, but it can affect anyone of reproductive age including transgender individuals.
- See a Doctor to get diagnosed. Diagnosing endometriosis may require a series of steps including a possible surgical biopsy, which is a minimally invasive procedure performed by a doctor.
If you think you might have endometriosis, you should talk with your health care provider, or visit your local Planned Parenthood health center.