Endometriosis is a common condition that can cause pelvic pain and difficulty getting pregnant. While there are medications and surgeries that can help, it’s essential to understand the symptoms and causes of the condition before exploring treatment options.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissues that line the uterus are found outside the uterus. These tissues are usually found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other pelvic structures. They can also grow around other organs, including the bladder, bowel, diaphragm, and lungs. Endometrial tissue on the outside of the uterus can cause pain and inflammation.
Endometriosis is a leading cause of infertility. The tissue can cover or grow into the ovaries or block the fallopian tubes. Trapped blood in the ovaries can then form cysts. The tissue can also form scar tissue and adhesions (a type of tissue that can bind your organs togethe r). This scar tissue may cause pelvic pain and make it difficult to get pregnant.
Some attribute endometrial pain to normal menstrual discomfort. It may take years for someone to consider an endometriosis diagnosis as a possible cause of their pain. This delay may lead to a missed opportunity to address a condition that could affect fertility and quality of life.
Types of Endometriosis
There are three main types of endometriosis:
- Superficial peritoneal lesions: In this type, the tissue attaches to the peritoneum, the membrane that lines your pelvis
- Endometriomas: These are cysts that occur when endometrial tissue implants deep within the ovaries
- Deeply infiltrating endometriosis (DIE): In this form of endometriosis, the tissue invades other organs, like the bowel or bladder
Stages of Endometriosis
Besides these three main types, endometriosis is categorized into four main stages:
- Stage l: This is mild disease, with one or two small pelvic implants and no scar tissue
- Stage II: This is considered mild disease, with a few small pelvic implants and little to no scar tissue
- Stage III: This is moderate disease. Implants may be deeper, and there’s scar tissue
- Stage IV: This is severe disease, with many deep implants and considerable scar tissue
The type and stage of endometriosis may help guide treatment decisions.
Signs & Symptoms of Endometriosis
Endometriosis symptoms can vary from patient to patient. This can make a diagnosis difficult, as some signs of endometriosis are vague and can overlap with other conditions.
Endometriosis symptoms include:
- Painful menstrual periods
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Pain during intercourse
- Irregular bleeding
- Digestive problems, including diarrhea, constipation, bloating, or nausea
- Painful bladder symptoms
What Causes Endometriosis?
The exact causes of endometriosis are unclear. The most common theory is that it’s due to menstruation problems; some of the shed uterine linings may flow backward through the fallopian tube into other body parts such as the pelvis. There may also be genetic factors at play, as individuals with a family history of endometriosis are more at risk.
Risk Factors for Endometriosis
Certain risk factors may make it more likely that a person will develop endometriosis. These include:
- A family history of endometriosis
- Early menstruation (before age 11)
- Never had children
- Menstrual periods that last more than seven days
- Menstrual cycles shorter than 28 days
Get Personalized Endometriosis Care at NewYork-Presbyterian
At NewYork-Presbyterian, our expert physicians and surgeons in gynecology collaborate to come up with a treatment plan that best meets the needs of each individual patient.