Cells that are like the cells that line the inside of your womb (uterus) sometimes grow on the outside of the uterus. This is called endometriosis. These clumps of cells can cause pain and problems with your periods. They can become inflamed and may bleed. Scar tissue that forms over time can make it difficult to get pregnant.
Medicines and sometimes surgery can relieve pain and help women who want to get pregnant.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
The most common symptoms are pain, bleeding, and trouble getting pregnant. You may have pain in your lower belly, rectum or vagina, or lower back. And you may have heavy periods, bleeding between periods, bleeding after sex, or blood in your urine or stool. Symptoms often are most severe before and during your menstrual period.
How is endometriosis diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms, periods, past health, and family medical history. You may also have a pelvic exam. And you may have imaging tests, such as a pelvic ultrasound or MRI. But to find out for sure if you have endometriosis, a surgery called laparoscopy is often used.
How is endometriosis treated?
Treatment depends on how much pain you have and whether you want to get pregnant. Treatments include:
- Over-the-counter pain medicines like ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) or naproxen (such as Aleve). These can reduce bleeding and pain.
- Hormone therapy. This can help reduce pain and menstrual bleeding. It can include hormonal birth control and other medicines.
- Laparoscopy to remove growths and scar tissue. This may reduce pain, and it may help you get pregnant.
A hysterectomy and oophorectomy (removal of the uterus and ovaries) are sometimes used as a last resort for severe pain.
If you're close to menopause, you may consider treatment with medicines rather than surgery. Endometriosis usually stops causing problems when you stop having periods.