Endometriosis is a common medical condition characterized by growth of tissue resembling endometrium (the normal lining of the uterus) beyond or outside the uterus itself. The condition is relatively common, affecting roughly 5-10% of women.
Women who suffer from endometriosis often report painful menstrual cycles or even chronic pelvic pain. Periods may be heavier or longer than normal. Some women even experience pain with intercourse (dyspareunia).
In more severely affected patients, endometriosis can exist outside the female genital tract and affect bowel, urinary, or other physiologic functions. Menses may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Painful bowel movements (dyschezia) may occur. Sometimes urination is affected, usually causing painful or frequent urination.
In rare cases, endometriosis can affect parts of the body far away from the pelvic organs, such as the liver or diaphragm. It may even occur outside the abdominal cavity altogether. Endometriosis has even been found in the lungs and nose, causing monthly chest or shoulder pain and nosebleeds respectively. Another rare symptom is monthly bleeding from the belly-button (umbilicus).
Some women with endometriosis don’t see their doctor for pain at all, but are diagnosed only when they have difficulty getting pregnant (infertility). It is common for women with unexplained infertility to have evidence of endometriosis found at the time of diagnostic surgery.
These signs and symptoms are often reported to a patient’s gynecologist or family doctor. A gynecologist who is familair with endometriosis can help distinguish whether your symptoms are normal, whether they are a sign of endometriosis, or wither other gynecologic conditions may be at fault.