March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, but chances are you weren’t aware! Unlike breast cancer, public awareness of endometriosis is relatively low – yet one out of every ten women of reproductive age is affected by it, and it’s a leading cause of infertility worldwide.

While the disease itself isn’t deadly, complications from endometriosis can be devastating. Approximately 30 to 50 percent of all women who suffer from it become infertile. Additionally, research indicates that ovarian cancer may occur at higher rates in women with endometriosis – though it is not conclusive.

Endometriosis Awareness: Fast Facts

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a condition in which endometrial tissue (similar to the uterine lining)—grows outside of the uterus on other pelvic organs—leading to inflammation, swelling, and even the creation of scar tissue. The displaced tissue sheds every month during the menstrual cycle. Symptoms generally develop a few years after the onset of menstruation.

Symptoms of Endometriosis

Symptoms of endometriosis include:
– Painful periods
– Painful ovulation
– Painful intercourse
– Long, heavy, painful menstrual periods
– Bleeding between periods
– Painful urination and bowel movements
– Infertility
– Other symptoms: fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating or nausea
– No symptoms at all

Endometriosis often goes undiagnosed because symptoms mimic other diseases, or are simply dismissed as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Sometimes there are no signs at all. If you experience any of the above symptoms, or if someone in your family has endometriosis, make sure to talk to your doctor.

Causes of Endometriosis

While there are no known causes of endometriosis, some evidence suggests that it may be hereditary.

Treatment for Endometriosis

While there is no cure for endometriosis, treatments can make the disease manageable, and lessen pain. Treatment options can include pain medications, hormonal medications (such as contraceptives), and/or surgery.