What is endometriosis? — Endometriosis is a condition that affects women. It can cause pain in the lower part of the belly and trouble getting pregnant.
In endometriosis, cells that are similar to the inner lining of the uterus grow outside of the uterus (figure 1). It is not known exactly how or why this happens. This tissue, which does not belong outside the uterus, can then break down, bleed, and cause symptoms.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis? — Some women with endometriosis have no symptoms. But most have pain in the lower part of the belly that can occur:
Before or during monthly periods
Between monthly periods
During or after sex
When urinating or having a bowel movement (often during monthly periods)
Other symptoms of endometriosis can include:
Trouble getting pregnant
Growths on the ovaries that a doctor can feel during an exam
All of these symptoms can also be caused by conditions that are not endometriosis. But if you have any of these symptoms, tell your doctor or nurse.
Is there a test for endometriosis? — No. But your doctor or nurse might suspect you have it by learning about your symptoms and doing an exam.
The only way to know for sure if you have endometriosis is for a doctor to do surgery and look for endometriosis tissue outside the uterus.
How is endometriosis treated? — Endometriosis can be treated in different ways. The right treatment for you will depend on your symptoms and on whether you want to be able to get pregnant in the future.
Doctors can use medicines to treat endometriosis. These include:
Pain medicines – There are medicines that can treat the pain caused by endometriosis. But these medicines do not make the endometriosis go away.
Birth control medicines – Certain birth control medicines can help reduce pain symptoms. This treatment is not appropriate for women who are trying to get pregnant.
Medicines that stop monthly periods – These medicines stop the body from producing certain hormones. They can be helpful for women who do not improve with birth control medicines. For women who need to take them for longer than 6 months, doctors add treatment with other hormones.
Some women choose to have surgery to treat endometriosis. Different types of surgery can include:
Laparoscopy – In this type of surgery, a doctor will make a small cut in the belly and put a tube with a camera inside the body. Then he or she can see and remove endometriosis tissue.
Hysterectomy – If no other treatments work, doctors might suggest a hysterectomy. This is surgery to remove a woman's uterus. Sometimes, the doctor will also remove the ovaries and tubes that connect the ovaries to the uterus (fallopian tubes) (figure 2). A woman cannot get pregnant after her uterus is removed.
What if I am having trouble getting pregnant? — If you are having trouble getting pregnant, talk with your doctor or nurse. There are different medicines and treatments that can help a woman get pregnant.
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 30, 2020.
Topic 15431 Version 7.0
Release: 28.2.2 - C28.105
© 2020 UpToDate, Inc. and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
New! No Prescription? No problem.
Affordable Online Care is here! Answer a few questions about your concern and receive a treatment plan in as little as 15 minutes, from a board-certified provider, 100% online.Learn more