4 Signs You Have Silent Endometriosis

by Sarah Watts
Mar 5, 2018 at 1:30 p.m. ET

More than 6.5 million women in the United States have been diagnosed with endometriosis. It's painful and potentially disabling, and thanks to the stigma around menstruation, very few people are willing to share their experience.

Endometriosis is when the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus itself, and it can extend to pelvic organs, ovaries, the lining of the abdominal cavity and beyond. “We don't know exactly what causes it, but the theory is that menstrual blood, which goes out through the cervix, may be going through the fallopian tubes into the pelvic cavity instead.” Dr. Jacquelyn Stone, OB/GYN at Maven Digital Clinic said.

Standard endometriosis can cause intense menstrual cramps (called dysmenorrhea), pain during sex, fatigue, excessive bleeding, pressure and more, but silent endometriosis is harder to recognize and can even be asymptomatic. In fact, in a 2011 study, researchers found that a full 11 percent of surveyed women had the condition but were never diagnosed with it. In the absence of noticeable symptoms, doctors have called the condition “silent endometriosis” — something that's every bit as severe as its more vocal counterpart.

Often, this type of endometriosis is not diagnosed until it’s found during surgeries for other conditions, but if you know what to look for, you might be able to help your doctor spot it much sooner. Ahead are four subtle signs of silent endometriosis.

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1 /4: Fertility Issues

1/4 :Fertility Issues

“Sometimes the only symptom is infertility,” said Dr. Stone. “There's no pain, or regular period cramps  and then you try to get pregnant.” Endometriosis has been known to cause scar tissue in the fallopian tubes, which can prevent conception, or it can cause problems with a fertilized egg implanting in the uterus, preventing a successful pregnancy and causing miscarriage.

2 /4: Out-of-Whack Hormones

2/4 :Out-of-Whack Hormones

Endometriosis is known to wreak havoc on women's hormones, and with silent endometriosis, a blood test might be the only way to tell your levels are off. While the condition can only be confirmed with laproscopic surgery, doctors can point to very high estrogen and low progesterone levels as an indicator of the disease.

3 /4: Ovarian cysts

3/4 :Ovarian cysts

Ovarian cysts are mostly asymptomatic, too. But if your doctor happens to find one on a routine ultrasound, it could signal endometriosis. According to Dr. Stone, ultrasounds typically reveal ovarian cysts in endometriosis patients. These “chocolate cysts” are unlike typical ovarian cysts and are filled with old blood, giving them a brownish appearance when seen up close.

4 /4: Other Chronic Diseases

Signs You Have Endometriosis | Being Diagnosed with Other Chronic Diseases

4/4 :Other Chronic Diseases

According to survey data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, women with endometriosis are at an increased risk for other conditions, such as fibromyalgia, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid issues. Researchers found that one in five women with endometriosis had been diagnosed with another condition. If you've been plagued by thyroid problems or chronic fatigue, it may be worth your while to schedule an appointment with your OB/GYN to make sure you're not dealing with endometriosis as well.