What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis occurs when the endometrial tissue located inside the uterus grows outside of the uterus and implants on other organs. Endometriosis is most commonly found in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the back part of the uterus, but endometrial tissues can potentially grow anywhere. Doctors have reported finding endometrial tissue in the abdomen, bladder, kidneys, lungs, and diaphragm, although these locations are much less common. In women with endometriosis, the endometrial tissue continues to act as it would as if still inside the uterus. The tissue growing on other organs still follows each woman’s menstrual cycle, swelling up and bleeding every month. While not life-threatening, endometriosis can become quite painful if not treated. Several theories exist as to what causes endometriosis, but the most common is Sampson’s Theory, also known as retrograde menstruation. During retrograde menstruation, endometrial cells get out of the uterus through the fallopian tubes and implant on tissues inside the abdomen, says Gretchen Glaser, MD, a physician in gynecologic surgery at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Pay attention to these endometriosis symptoms and talk to your doctor if you’re concerned. Plus, learn why doctors so often miss or misdiagnose endometriosis.
You have pain before, during, and after your period
Pain is the most common symptom of endometriosis. Pain starts a few days before a woman’s period, can last through the period, and continue for a couple of days after, says Dr. Glaser. Some pain associated with periods is normal, but when pain becomes unmanageable and lasts for long periods of time, it could be a symptom of endometriosis. “When women find that they have to stay home from school or they have to stay home from work, they’re vomiting, or that they can’t function essentially during their period, that’s a good time to get checked out,” says Glaser. These are other unusual period problems you should never, ever ignore.