Endometriosis is an incredibly common disease impacting an estimated 1 in 10 women of reproductive age. The disease occurs when tissue similar to what makes up a woman’s uterine lining, called the endometrium, is found outside of the uterus. The symptoms caused by endometriosis can have a negative impact on a woman’s quality of life but often goes undiagnosed due to a lack of information. In order to raise awareness of this common disease, the team of fertility doctors at UNC Fertility clinic in Raleigh, North Carolina go over seven things about endometriosis you should know.

  1. A woman can have endometriosis symptoms as soon as their first period

A woman can experience endometriosis at any point during her reproductive years, starting as early as her first period. While a woman’s symptoms always begin during her reproductive years, they don’t necessarily stop with menopause – especially if she has scar tissue or adhesions from the disease or surgical interventions.

  1. The symptoms can be debilitating

While many women experience some level of discomfort during their periods, women with endometriosis experience pain that is so severe that it interferes with their daily activities. For some women, the associated pain can get worse around their periods, while others can experience it during other times in their cycle. Women with endometriosis also often experience severe bloating, heavy periods, frequent bathroom breaks, and sometimes even difficulty breathing.

  1. Women often go years without a diagnosis

Women with endometriosis often go years without receiving a diagnosis. This is mostly due to the fact that the most common symptoms – heavy periods and period pain – are often dismissed by healthcare providers. Additionally, endometriosis can only be definitively diagnosed through surgery (except in rare cases), so many women choose not to undergo diagnostic surgery to get to the bottom of their symptoms.

  1. There is no known cause

Currently, doctors do not know what causes endometriosis, but there are certain factors that can increase your chances of developing the disease. Genetic factors can play a role, with women who have a close female family member with the disease being more likely to develop it. Getting your period at an early age and short menstrual cycles can also put you at greater risk of developing endometriosis.

  1. Endometriosis is treatable

While there is no known cure for endometriosis, the disease is treatable. Endometriosis can often be effectively treated with certain medications (such as over the counter pain medications, birth control pills, progestin, etc.) and surgery can be used to remove endometrial scar tissue and lesions.

  1. Women with endometriosis can struggle to conceive

Depending how far the disease has progressed, endometriosis can negatively impact a woman’s fertility. It is estimated that 30%-40% of women with endometriosis will struggle to achieve a pregnancy. This is often due to the fact that the endometrial lesions can develop on the fallopian tubes or the ovaries, making it difficult for a woman’s eggs to escape the ovary and connect with her partner’s sperm.

  1. Pregnancy can relieve endometriosis symptoms

While women with endometriosis may struggle with infertility, they can carry a pregnancy to term with help from a team of fertility specialists. In fact, women with endometriosis often experience relief from their endometriosis symptoms during their pregnancy.

For women concerned about the impact of endometriosis on their fertility, it is important to catch and treat it early on. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned each month during your period, we encourage you to contact the fertility experts of UNC Fertility at 919-908-0000 or request an appointment to find out if endometriosis may be negatively impacting your fertility.