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What is endometriosis?

By Summa Published: March 7, 2017

It’s Endometriosis Awareness Week, a disease that effects millions of women across the country. Endometriosis is a disease in which tissue that normally grows inside the uterus grows outside the uterus. It is one of the most common gynecological diseases, and its primary symptoms include pain and infertility.

Other common symptoms include:

  • Painful, even debilitating, menstrual cramps, which may get worse over time
  • Pain during or after sex
  • Pain in the intestine or lower abdomen
  • Painful bowel movements or painful urination during menstrual periods
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Premenstrual spotting or bleeding between periods

In addition, women who are diagnosed with endometriosis may have painful bladder syndrome, digestive or gastrointestinal symptoms similar to a bowel disorder, as well as fatigue, tiredness, or lack of energy.

Endometriosis is most common in women in their 30s and 40s, but it can affect any female who menstruates. Because some women might have endometriosis, but do not have symptoms, it is difficult to know exactly how many women have the condition. Current estimates suggest that 6-10 percent of women of reproductive age have endometriosis, or approximately 5 million women in the United States.

Studies show that women are at higher risk for endometriosis if their:

  • Mother, sister, or daughter had endometriosis (raises the risk about sixfold)
  • Periods started at an early age (before age 11)
  • Monthly cycles are short (less than 27 days)
  • Menstrual cycles are heavy and last more than 7 days

Studies also show that some factors may lower the risk for endometriosis, including:

  • Pregnancy
  • Starting menstruation late in adolescence4
  • Regular exercise of more than 4 hours a week1
  • Low amount of body fat

If you’re experiencing some of these symptoms, or have a family history of endometriosis, contact your OBGYN to have a full evaluation. If you need an OBGYN, visit summahealth.org to find a doctor in your area.

There are many treatment options available including both medication and surgery. Talk to your doctor for more information. 

Susan Shondel, M.D.
Obstetrics and Gynecology
Summa Health

Source: National Institutes of Health

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