Endometriosis

Endometriosis, or “endo,” happens with tissue similar to endometrium—the tissue inside the uterus—grows outside your uterus.

Symptoms

Many women have symptoms for years before their endometriosis is diagnosed and effectively treated. Talk to your doctor if you experience:

  • Back pain
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty getting pregnant
  • Heavy periods that last longer than five to seven days
  • Pain before or during your period
  • Pain during or after sex
  • Pain with bowel movements
  • Severe fatigue

Lifestyle Tips

Explore ways you can manage endometriosis at home.

Diet

  • Eat a healthful, balanced diet with foods that provide essential vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, thiamine (vitamin B1), and vitamins A, C, D and E 
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine to avoid unpredictable spikes in estrogen that worsen endometriosis symptoms. 
  • Limit trans fats (a type of fat often used in fried, packaged and processed foods); some research shows a link between trans fats and endometriosis risk.

Exercise

Exercise regularly to help control hormones that fuel endometrial tissue growth and activity.

Pain Management

  • Use a heating pad or take a hot bath to ease pain. 
  • Take an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), such as ibuprofen, during your period. 
  • Support your body’s ability to withstand pain by getting at least seven to eight hours a night.

Stress Management

  • Use relaxation techniques to curb stress that worsens endometriosis symptoms as well as assist with pain management when symptoms are at their worst. Some proven techniques include deep breathing, guided imagery, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation and yoga. 
  • Get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night

Treatment Options

The best treatment for you depends on your condition and symptoms, and whether you want to get pregnant in the future

Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy may help relieve pain, slow endometrial tissue growth and prevent new extrauterine endometrial tissue. Types of hormone therapy include: 

  • Hormonal contraceptives, such as birth control pills, patches and vaginal rings. 
  • Progestin therapy, such as a levonorgestral intrauterine device (IUD), a contraceptive implant, a contraceptive injection, or a progestin-only birth control pill. These medications can decrease or eliminate the flow of menstrual periods and suppress the growth of endometriosis. 
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) agonists and antagonists to block ovarian-stimulating hormones, lowering estrogen levels, preventing menstruation and shrinking endometrial tissue. 
  • Aromatase inhibitors used off-label (in a non-FDA-approved use) to reduce the amount of estrogen in your body

Surgery

Your doctor may recommend surgery if hormone therapy doesn’t help or you are trying to become pregnant: 

  • Laparoscopy for endometriosis – Removes tissue while preserving the uterus and ovaries 
  • Hysterectomy – Removes the uterus, endometriosis, and sometimes the ovaries and the fallopian tubes.

Alternative Therapies

Some women, particularly young women, get relief from endometriosis symptoms with: 

  • Acupuncture 
  • Electrical nerve stimulation 
  • Pelvic massage

Frequently Asked Questions

How common is endometriosis?

Up to 10% of women of reproductive age have endometriosis. That’s about 5 million women in the United States.

Who gets endometriosis?

Endometriosis mainly affects women during their reproductive years—the years between their first and final period.

Is it normal to have painful periods?

No. Some women experience uncomfortable cramps that can be relieved by over-the-counter pain medications. However, pain that makes you want to curl up in a ball or leads to missing school or work is not normal.

Does endometriosis affect fertility?

An estimated 30% to 40% of women with endometriosis have some difficulty becoming pregnant. This, however, means that 60% to 70% have no problems.

Will pregnancy cure endometriosis?

No. However, some women have less endometriosis pain during pregnancy. In most cases, endometriosis returns after giving birth and stopping breastfeeding.

How is endometriosis diagnosed?

If your symptoms suggest endometriosis, your doctor may do a pelvic exam, recommend an imaging test, or prescribe hormonal medicines to see if they relieve your pain. The only way to know for sure if you have endometriosis is to examine your tissue using a minimally invasive surgical procedure.

Is endometriosis a sexually transmitted disease

No. Endometriosis cannot be transferred from one person to another. While the cause is unknown, genetics likely play a role. Women who have a first-degree relative (mother or sister) with endometriosis are seven times more likely to develop endometriosis themselves.

Is there a cure for endometriosis?

Unfortunately, no. However, endometriosis can be treated, and many women manage their symptoms through lifestyle changes, medication and/or surgery.

Contact us

Talk to a care navigator or schedule an appointment at the Women’s Health & Wellness Center.