Endometriosis is a disease in which tissue from the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) migrates outside the uterus. Symptoms typically begin in adolescence and may include pelvic pain, painful periods and bleeding between periods. As many as 10% to 15% of women suffer from this disease during their reproductive years. Endometriosis is a chronic disease that can be managed through medication or surgery.
“As [endometrial tissue outside the uterus] builds up and breaks down over the course of a menstrual cycle, it causes a small amount of bleeding inside the pelvis,” says Lauren Sundheimer, M.D., a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at CCRM Fertility in Newport Beach, California. This bleeding, she explains, may lead to severe cramping and pelvic, lower abdominal and back pain. Sometimes pelvic pain may even present as chronic and severe, occurring beyond the days of menstruation, adds Dr. Sundheimer.
Endometriosis can impact the quality of life, too, says Eric Surrey, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at CCRM Fertility in Lone Tree, Colorado. He explains that symptoms range from mild to debilitating, and many people suffering from this disease may struggle in their profession, academics or personal relationships as they take time to focus on their physical needs.