Though many remain undiagnosed, nearly 176 million people worldwide have endometriosis. Though you may know that the condition can mean very painful menstrual cramps, do you know what else endometriosis does to your body?
When a person has this chronic disease, it is the result of uterine-like tissues growing outside the uterus, in other parts of the body, like the ovaries, bladder, fallopian tubes or anywhere else in the pelvic cavity. In more severe — but rare — cases, endometriosis lesions can also be found on the skin and in the lungs, spine and brain.
Regardless of where this endometrial tissue is located in the body, it thickens, breaks down and then bleeds during a person’s menstrual cycle. Because the tissue has no way of leaving the body, it gets trapped — irritating surrounding tissue, and eventually leading to scar tissue and adhesions. If someone has endometriosis in their ovaries, it can also lead to the formation of cysts.
So how do you know if you have this chronic condition? Some of the symptoms of endometriosis include very painful periods, excessive bleeding, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, nausea and painful sex, among others. If these sound like the symptoms of other conditions — like irritable bowel syndrome, pelvic inflammatory disease and ovarian cysts — it can be difficult to get an accurate diagnosis. If you think you may have endometriosis, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about it. In the meantime, take a look at the graphic below to get a better idea of how endometriosis can invade your entire pelvic region.
A version of this article was originally published in May 2018.
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