Learn Endometriosis Signs & Symptoms & What to Tell Your Dr.
Pelvic pain is common for most women during their period. However, for some – this time of the month comes with excruciating pain due to the medical condition – endometriosis (also known as endo for short). Believe it or not, endometriosis signs extend beyond just the debilitating pain, although, that’s the hallmark symptom of this inflammatory disorder.
If you think you might have endometriosis, it’s important to have a solid foundation of information before you see your doctor for a possible endo diagnosis. Keep reading to learn what endometriosis is and what are the most common signs and symptoms of this condition.
What Is Endometriosis?
Pronounced (en-doe-me-tree-O-sis), endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the pelvis where tissue similar to that normally grows inside your uterus, grows elsewhere instead, usually on the outside of it. The endometriosis tissue can block fallopian tubes, cover your ovaries, and even line the organs of your pelvis.
Endometriosis can cause intense pain and fatigue, which makes it a disabling inflammatory condition for many women. Pain from endometriosis can be so intense that sometimes even medication cannot touch it. Other organs commonly involved include the fallopian tubes, bowels, cervix, ovaries, vagina, and pelvic tissue. Rarely, endo may also affect distant organs. Learn more about the disorder in our previous article, “Endometriosis 101: Covering the Basics”.
What Are Endometriosis Signs and Symptoms?
Sadly, endometriosis is an inflammatory disorder that often goes undiagnosed for years because the hallmark symptoms are things that some women take for granted as “normal”: heavy bleeding and pain during periods. If you think you might have endometriosis, it’s important that you know what to look for and when you should notify a doctor. The following are seven common signs of endometriosis:
Dysmenorrhea (painful periods):
Intense pelvic or abdominal pain is one of the most common symptoms of endometriosis. Endometriosis pain is often described as a sharp or stabbing sensation. During menstruation, women with endo may experience very painful periods because the endometrial tissue swells and bleeds every month, just like the uterine lining would. However, because this process is occurring outside the uterus, blood is not easily shed, and this pressure can cause extreme cramping that is much more intense than typical period cramps. Period pain should not disrupt your daily life, so if it does, you need to let your doctor know or find a qualified endo specialist.
Menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding):
While many women bleed heavily during their period, endometriosis can cause significant blood loss. How do you know if your amount of bleeding is excessive? Watch for these signs:
- Passing large clots
- Period goes on longer than a week
- Bleeding through a pad or tampon in an hour
- Too fatigued to carry out daily activities
Dyspareunia (pain during or after intercourse):
When endometriosis is the cause of painful intercourse, the woman may not experience the pain upon entry, only upon deep penetration. There can be physical and psychological causes of this condition, and endometriosis may be the culprit, as tissue builds up on the other side of the lower uterus or vagina – and sexual intercourse can stretch the tissue. You should talk to an experienced physician if you have pain during or after intercourse.
Chronic Pelvic Pain:
While the inflammatory condition usually involves pain during menstruation, endometriosis pain can occur at any time of the month. Endometriosis causes an increase in pressure due to the excessive tissue in the pelvic cavity. This can cause a chronic pain condition that might be felt exclusively in the pelvis or manifest as abdominal or back pain.
There is a type of endometriosis that causes endometriomas (also known as chocolate cysts) to grow on your ovaries. These cysts are non-cancerous but may become large and painful. Also, women who have these may also have other endometrial growths in the abdominal or pelvic areas.
Up to about half of women who have problems with fertility also have endometriosis. Furthermore, up to 50 percent of women who have endometriosis are unable to get or stay pregnant. The relationship between these conditions isn’t always clear as many factors can impact fertility. However, in the event that the endometriosis tissue blocks the reproductive organs, there is a clear connection. Treating the condition can increase your odds of having a baby. If these fertility issues are affecting you, contact an endometriosis specialist.
Bathroom visits may be problematic if you have endometriosis lesions growing near your bladder or bowels. And if you are experiencing difficulty with urination or bowel movements or bleeding in the bowel – these may be signs of endometriosis. Also, if you have painful urination, blood in your stool, nausea, or hyper urgency to urinate – you should tell your medical provider immediately.
When to Call Your Healthcare Provider
Share with your healthcare provider any of the following endometriosis signs and symptoms:
- Pain. Pain is the most common sign of endometriosis, and it can be present:
- During or after sex
- With bowel movements
- When urinating during your period
- As chronic abdominal, lower back, or intestinal pain
- Similar to menstrual cramps that get worse gradually
- Bleeding or spotting between periods
- Difficulty getting pregnant or infertility
- Digestive issues or stomach problems such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, or nausea—especially during your periods