In the United States, more than 6.5 million women have been diagnosed with endometriosis, according to the Office on Women’s Health. For many, it’s painful and potentially disabling, while, for others, they experience what’s called “silent endometriosis” symptoms.
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,” said Dr. Jacquelyn Stone, OB/GYN at Maven Digital Clinic.
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, researchers found in a 2011 study published by Fertility and Sterility 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.
A version of this article was originally published in March 2018.
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