Endometriosis is a condition where the endometrial tissue that belongs on the inside of the uterus implants and grows on the outside of the uterus, which can cause pain and get in the way of fertility. It’s also immensely common, and according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, affects around 1 in 10 women.
So who is at risk for endometriosis?
Endometriosis is most commonly diagnosed in women in their 30s and 40s, but it can begin to occur any time after puberty. With an impact of around 1 in 10 women, it’s hard to say anyone isn’t at some risk of developing endometriosis, which is why it’s a good idea not to dismiss unusually strong menstrual pain as “normal” – often, it isn’t.
More than that, though, since no one is completely sure of what causes endometriosis, it’s much harder to tell who has a greater chance of getting it.
However, there are some patterns doctors and researchers have noticed of groups of women who are more likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis. These groups include:
- Family history: Women who have one or more close biological relatives who have been diagnosed with endometriosis, like a mother or a sister, are more likely to be diagnosed with it themselves. This might be because a certain type of immune system deficiency, which can run in families, may make it harder for the body to fight off endometrial cells when they try to grow outside of the uterus.
- Early period: Women who experienced their first menstrual period at a younger age may be more likely to experience endometriosis.
- Birth: Women who haven’t yet given birth may be at a higher risk of developing endometriosis.
- Long period: Women who regularly experience menstrual periods that occur more often or last longer than average may be more likely to have or to develop endometriosis.
- Blockage: Women who have a closed hymen, or any health condition that blocks the flow of menstrual blood may be more likely to develop endometriosis.
- History: Women with a history of pelvic infection or uterine abnormalities may be more likely to develop endometriosis.
Endometriosis can only be definitively diagnosed through surgery, but there are a few common signs of endometriosis that can tip women off to the fact that it may be a possibility. Women with endometriosis don’t necessarily experience all or any of these symptoms, but noticing them can be a good place to start. These signs include:
Pelvic pain during menstruation
Pelvic pain during sex
Pain during urination or bowel movements, especially during menstruation
Infertility or problems with fertility
Excessive bleeding, including long or heavy periods, or bleeding between periods
Other symptoms like fatigue, diarrhea, bloating, nausea, and constipation can also accompany endometriosis
Endometriosis is common and it can be painful, but there are a wealth of different treatment possibilities that can follow a diagnosis to help women suffering from it both manage or get rid of the pain and make the reproductive choices they want.
“Endometriosis.” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine, September 26 2016. Web.
“FAQ: Endometriosis.” ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, October 2012. Web.
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Endometriosis.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, April 2 2013. Web.