Suffering from chronic pelvic pain? Wondering if it's endometriosis?

We asked the National Institutes of Health for answers to basic questions.

We know: All About Endometriosis

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis occurs when tissue like that which lines the inside of the uterus grows outside the uterus, usually on the surfaces of organs in the pelvic and abdominal areas, in places that it is not supposed to grow.

What causes endometriosis?

The exact cause is not known, although there are a variety of theories.

Who gets endometriosis?

Endometriosis can affect any menstruating woman, from the time of her first period to menopause, regardless of whether or not she has children, her race or ethnicity, or her socio-economic status. Endometriosis can sometimes persist after menopause; or hormones taken for menopausal symptoms may cause the symptoms of endometriosis to continue.

What are the common symptoms of endometriosis?

  • Very painful cramps or periods
  • heavy periods
  • chronic pelvic pain (which includes lower back pain and pelvic pain)
  • intestinal pain
  • pain during or after sex
  • infertility

What are the common treatments for endometriosis?

  • Pain medication - Works well if your pain or other symptoms are mild. These medications range from over-the-counter remedies to strong prescription drugs
  • Hormone therapy - Because hormones cause endometriosis to go through a cycle similar to the menstrual cycle, hormones can also be effective in treating the symptoms of endometriosis. In fact, if a woman's symptoms do not respond to hormone therapy, health care providers may go over their diagnosis of endometriosis again, to make sure she really has the condition.
  • Surgery - Is usually the best choice if your endometriosis is extensive, or if you have more severe pain. Surgical treatments range from minor to major surgical procedures.

Does it affect fertility and childbearing?

About 30 percent to 40 percent of women with endometriosis are infertile, making it one of the top three causes for female infertility.

However, endometriosis-related infertility is often treated successfully using hormones and surgery.

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