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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.

  • Symptoms

    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. Some women have heavy periods, bleeding between periods, bleeding after sex, or blood in their urine or stool. Symptoms often are most severe before and during your menstrual period.

  • Diagnosis

    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. This may include checking both your vagina and rectum. The only way to find out for sure if you have endometriosis is to have a surgery called laparoscopy.

  • Treatment

    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.
    • Birth control pills. Most women can use them safely for years. But you cannot use them if you want to get pregnant.
    • Hormone therapy. This stops your periods and shrinks tissue growths. But it can cause side effects, and pain may come back after treatment ends. Hormone therapy will keep you from getting pregnant.
    • Laparoscopy to remove growths and scar tissue. This may reduce pain, and it may help you get pregnant.

    As a last resort for severe pain, some women have their uterus and ovaries removed (hysterectomy and oophorectomy).

    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.