Endometriosis is a common health problem amongst women that affects the tissues that line the womb and uterus, also known as the endometrium, wherein tissue grows outside of the uterus, womb and various other organs of the body. These growths occur most commonly on the outer surface of the uterus, the lining of the pelvic cavity, fallopian tubes and ovaries. Endometriosis can also occur on the vagina, cervix, bladder, rectum, vulva or bowel. In rare cases, endometriosis has been found on other major organs such as the lungs, brain and skin. These growths are benign but cause several associated health issues.

Endometriosis occurs most commonly amongst women in the 30s and 40s, but can happen to any female teen or adult with a menstrual period. Endometriosis symptoms decrease with pregnancy and menopause. Studies have shown correlations between endometriosis and the following health issues: frequent yeast infections, frequent infection, mononucleosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, lupus, fibromyalgia, allergies, asthma, chemical sensitivities, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, thyroid cancer, colon cancer, cancer of the kidneys, brain cancer, endocrine cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Risks factors associated with endometriosis can include periods that last for more than 7 days, short menstrual cycles (27 days or less), a female family member with endometriosis (it is hereditary), pelvic infection resulting in damaged cells, health problems that prevent normal menstrual blood flow and never having children. Studies have suggested several causes for endometriosis including, but not limited to, genetics, faulty immune systems, high estrogen levels and/or dioxin exposure. Dioxin is a toxic chemical that results from the burning of waste and pesticide use.

Symptoms associated with endometriosis vary from woman to woman. Some women can experience little to no pain with largely affected areas, while others can have very painful symptoms with very few growths. Every case is subjective, and the level of pain and discomfort experienced is not an indicator of how much tissue growth a woman has. Symptoms associated with endometriosis can include: very painful menstrual cramps, chronic lower back and pelvis pain, intestinal pain, fatigue, infertility, painful bowel movements and/or painful urination during menstrual periods, diarrhea, constipation, nausea and bloating (especially during menstrual periods). Women suffering with endometriosis have been known to skip school, work or social events due to the symptoms associated with it.

If you are concerned that you may be suffering from endometriosis, speak to your doctor about it. Endometriosis can be detected with a pelvic exam, ultrasound or laparoscopy (a minor surgery where a doctor examines your abdomen). Women can help reduce the risk of developing endometriosis by exercising regularly, avoiding large amounts of alcohol and caffeine and maintaining a low body fat percentage.