Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women in America, and likely many more, due to growing awareness that it may be highly under-diagnosed, especially in younger women.
It's a condition where tissue that normally lines the uterus — called the endometrium — grows in other parts of the body where it’s not supposed to be, most commonly the abdominal cavity, where it can land on the intestinal lining, ovaries and fallopian tubes.
This tissue is triggered by the same hormonal changes that trigger your period to come each month, causing this tissue to bleed as well. The blood in the abdomen causes irritation to the local nerves, which can be extremely painful. Over time, this bleeding can also lead to chronic inflammation and the formation of scar tissue, which in turn causes adhesions to form on the intestines, bladder, and reproductive organs, potentially leading to a whole host of symptoms.
Women with endometriosis often struggle with awful menstrual cramping that sometimes won’t even go away with NSAIDS (a group of common pain killers, like Motrin and ibuprofen). Some other common symptoms are long heavy periods (“periods from hell” is something I often hear), pelvic pain between periods, constipation and bloating, painful sex, urinary problems, low back ache, and chronic fatigue. These symptoms are a result of the inflammation, irritation, and adhesions.
In some cases, the first noticeable "symptom" is difficulty conceiving. In fact, up to 50% of women with infertility have endometriosis.
Nobody knows exactly why endometriosis happens. But some factors might be impairment to the immune response, compounded by exposure to environmental toxins. Unfortunately, endometriosis can progress and worsen over time if not addressed.