What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a condition that occurs when tissue similar to the inside lining of the uterus is found outside of its normal location. Endometrial implants can be found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and ligaments that support the uterus and tissue covering the bladder and rectum. The most common locations of endometrial implants in teens are in the cul–de–sac area (behind the uterus), and near the bladder.

When you have endometriosis, the implants of tissue outside your uterus act just like the tissue lining your uterus. During your menstrual cycle, they get thicker, then break down and bleed. But the implants are outside your uterus, so the blood cannot flow out of your body. The implants can get irritated and painful. Sometimes they form scar tissue or fluid-filled sacs (cysts). Scar tissue may make it hard to get pregnant.

What are the symptoms of endometriosis?

Endometriosis causes different symptoms in women of reproductive age. Pelvic pain and/or severe period cramps are the most common symptoms. There can be pain before, during, or after your period. The pain may occur at regular times in your cycle, or it may occur at any time during the month. It is often referred to as "chronic" pelvic pain. The location of the endometrial implants and the way in which the lesions affect the pelvic organs contribute to the symptoms you may have. Some women may have pain with exercise, sex, and/or after a pelvic exam. Although not as common, some may have painful or frequent urination, diarrhea, or constipation with pelvic pain. It's important to remember that some women have a lot of endometriosis and have very little pain, while others may have a small amount of endometriosis and severe pain.

How is endometriosis diagnosed?

The only way to be sure you have endometriosis is to have a type of surgery called laparoscopy. During this surgery, a thin, lighted tube is inserted through a small cut in your belly. This lets the doctor see what is inside your belly. If endometriotic implants, scar tissue, or cysts, are found they can be removed during the same surgery.

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