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Endometriosis

What Are The Symptoms Of Endometriosis?

Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 12:04

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Endometriosis does not always produce symptoms. When it does, it can cause:

In some women, the only sign of endometriosis may be infertility. Occasionally, endometriosis is discovered unexpectedly during an exam or surgery for an unrelated condition.

Need To Know:

Endometriosis can cause a variety of symptoms ranging from mild to severe. This is because the amount and distribution of endometriosis varies in women - and also because the disease doesn't always behave in the same way in everyone.

There is no correlation between the extent of endometriosis and the level of pain a woman experiences.

  • Some women with only small areas of endometriosis may experience severe pain.
  • On the other hand, some women with a great deal of endometriosis will have little pain.

Painful Periods

Many (although not all) women with endometriosis will experience deep pain that occurs when they have their period, a condition known asdysmenorrhea. The pain can occur in the:

  • Lower abdomen
  • Vagina
  • Rear pelvic area
  • Back

This pain usually begins from 5 to 7 days before the heaviest menstrual flow and lasts for 2 to 3 days. This type of pain differs from normal menstrual pain, which is more cramp-like and concentrated in the mid-abdomen.

Pain During Intercourse

Painful intercourse, or dyspareunia, can occur when a man's penis enters the vagina and presses on tissues that may be affected by endometriosis. Painful intercourse may lead to reduced sexual activity, and some women find that intercourse becomes impossible.

Pelvic Pain

Women with endometriosis may experience pelvic pain that seems to be unrelated to menstruation or intercourse. Experts had thought that endometriosis produced pain because of the bleeding of the misplaced endometrial tissue. While this undoubtedly does happen in some women, this explanation now seems too simplistic.

Recent research indicates that the pain of endometriosis is linked to inflammation, not bleeding, around the misplaced endometriosis tissue. Chemicals within the body such as prostaglandins are thought to be involved. These are the hormone-like substances released by the endometrial tissue and are affected by inflammation.

Other Symptoms

Endometrial tissue attached to other locations may produce different symptoms. Women with endometrial tissue attached to non-reproductive organs such as the large intestine or bladder may experience:

  • Abdominal swelling and pain when moving the bowels
  • Painful urination
  • Bleeding from the rectum during menstruation
  • Nausea or vomiting that worsen before menstruation
  • A painful swelling of the umbilicus, or belly button

Conditions That Can Cause Similar Symptoms

There are a number of conditions that can cause symptoms similar to endometriosis, including:

  • A problem with an intrauterine device (IUD), which is used for birth control
  • Pelvic infection
  • Ovarian cysts caused by other conditions
  • Painful periods, where no specific cause has been found
  • Psychosexual problems, such as an extremely distressing past experience (for example, a rape or sexual abuse)

Endometriosis