Like many common conditions, endometriosis isn’t fully understood yet by the medical community. Since it’s not entirely clear what causes it, though, there’s no known way of preventing it. When prevention isn’t possible, knowing the symptoms and being able to detect it can be especially important.
Unfortunately, many of the symptoms of endometriosis are often dismissed as more severe, but still normal, symptoms of menstruation or PMS.
Pelvic pain is the most common, defining symptom of endometriosis, but it isn’t the only one. Common symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Heavy bleeding: Since the endometrial tissue on the outside of the uterus still acts like it would if it was on the inside of the uterus, thickening before breaking down into blood at each menstrual cycle, endometriosis can cause either unusually heavy bleeding during periods or some bleeding between periods. This can also lead to longer periods, and bleeding that happens between periods can sometimes be misunderstood as more frequent periods.
- Pelvic cramps: During or leading up to menstruation, endometriosis can cause cramps that are stronger or more painful than usual.
- Painful sex: Pelvic pain from endometriosis can also show up as painful sexual intercourse. This symptom can either come up during menstrual periods or outside of them. This pain has been described either as a sharp, jabbing pain, or as a deep ache. Pain from sexual intercourse can happen either during intercourse, in the hours and even days after, or both.
- Painful urination or bowel movements: Especially during menstruation, endometriosis can cause painful urination or bowel movements.
- Infertility: Somewhere between a third and half of all women with endometriosis experience infertility at some point. Endometriosis interferes with fertility when the endometrial tissue in the fallopian tube gets in the way of the sperm and the egg meeting each other. Endometriosis may also cause damage to the sperm or the egg less directly.
- Other symptoms: Endometriosis may also cause other symptoms that aren’t always easy to distinguish from a regular period, like fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, or nausea, most commonly during menstruation.
Endometriosis can only be fully diagnosed through surgery, but signs and symptoms like these can help point the condition out. On the other hand, if these symptoms have been around a while, many women learn to live with them, and may be surprised by the effect endometriosis treatment has on them.
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Ellen Johnson, Lone Hummelshoj. “Painful Intercourse.” endometriosis. Endometriosis.org, 2005-2016. Web.