Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places.
Tissue may grow in your:
- pelvic cavity
- lining of your tummy (peritoneum)
- bowel and ureters (tubes from kidney to bladder)
Endometriosis can affect women of any age.
It's a long-term condition that can have a significant impact on your life, but there are treatments that can help.
Symptoms of endometriosis
The symptoms of endometriosis can vary. Some women are badly affected, while others might not have any noticeable symptoms.
The main symptoms of endometriosis are:
- pain in your lower tummy or back (pelvic pain) – usually worse during your period
- period pain that stops you doing your normal activities
- pain during or after sex
- pain when peeing or pooing, particularly during your period
- feeling sick, constipation, diarrhoea, or blood in your pee during your period
- difficulty getting pregnant
- cyclical shoulder pain
- unusual period related complaints such as fitting during periods only, temporary loss of eyesight during periods, coughing blood or nose bleeds during periods
You may also have unusual period related complaints such as:
- fits during periods only
- temporary loss of eyesight during periods
- coughing blood or nose bleeds during periods
You may also have heavy periods. You might use lots of pads or tampons, or you may bleed through your clothes.
For some women, endometriosis can have a big impact on their life and may sometimes lead to feelings of depression.
Complications of endometriosis
Women with endometriosis can sometimes experience a number of complications.
Endometriosis can cause fertility problems. This is not fully understood, but is thought to be because of damage to the fallopian tubes or ovaries, or the inflammation caused by the disease in the pelvis.
But not all women with endometriosis will have problems and some will eventually be able to get pregnant without treatment.
Medication will not improve fertility. Surgery to remove visible patches of endometriosis tissue can sometimes help. But there's no guarantee this will help you get pregnant.
If you're having difficulty getting pregnant after diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis, infertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF), may be an option.
Women with moderate to severe endometriosis tend to have a lower chance of getting pregnant with IVF than usual. This is due to the effect that endometriosis has on egg quality and embryo implantation. This is why an early diagnosis and treatment is best.
Adhesions and ovarian cysts
Some women will develop:
- adhesions – 'sticky' areas of endometriosis tissue that can join organs together
- ovarian cysts – fluid-filled cysts in the ovaries that can sometimes become very large and painful
These can both occur if the endometriosis tissue is in or near the ovaries. The presence of cysts with endometriosis (chocolate cysts) can be detected using ultrasound. This is advanced disease.
They can be treated with surgery, but may come back in the future if the endometriosis is left, or the cysts reoccur.
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE