What Is Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition that can affect many aspects of someone’s life. Understanding the condition can empower those who suffer from it, and also give tools for their partners and their community to provide support.

1 min read
What Is Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition that can affect many aspects of someone’s life, causing issues such as chronic pelvic pain and subfertility. It is estimated that about 1 in every 10 vulva owners in Australia suffer from endometriosis, so it is vital to raise awareness about this condition to help those affected.

Understanding Endometriosis not only empowers those who are suffering from it, but also gives tools for their partners and their community to provide support and empathy and stimulate research for better treatments.

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a chronic, often debilitating inflammatory condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus, called endometrium, grows outside the uterus. It most often affects the ovaries, the uterine tubes, and the tissue lining the pelvis, and in rare cases, it may spread beyond the pelvic organs.

What is Endometrial Tissue?

Endometrial tissue is the inner lining of the uterus. In people who have menstrual cycles, this tissue starts thickening after every period in preparation for a potential pregnancy. If pregnancy doesn't happen, this lining sheds and is expelled through menstruation In endometriosis, tissue similar to this lining grows outside the uterus, potentially causing different symptoms and complications.

Causes of Endometriosis

The exact cause of endometriosis is unfortunately still unknown. However, there appears to be an important immunological component to it. Other possible theories are:

  • Retrograde menstruation: Menstrual blood containing endometrial cells may flow back through the uterine tubes and into the pelvic cavity.
  • Embryonic cell growth: Cells in the earliest stages of development could grow into endometrial tissue outside the uterus.
  • Surgical scar implantation: Endometrial cells may attach to a surgical incision after a surgery, such as a C-section or a surgery to remove uterine fibroids.

Symptoms of Endometriosis

The most common symptoms experienced by people with endometriosis are:

  • Period pain: The severity of the pain can vary a lot, from mild to debilitating.
  • Dyspareunia (pain during penetration): This is commonly worst in deep penetration, and open communication between partners is essential to best navigate it.
  • Chronic pelvic pain: People with endometriosis frequently experience not only pain during their period or sex, but also unrelated to those.
  • Subfertility: Although not everyone with endometriosis will have infertility, about 50% of people with endometriosis have a hard time conceiving.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms: Constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, and nausea can also occur.
  • Fatigue: Especially during menstrual periods.
  • Stress / Anxiety / Depression: Endometriosis is an often debilitating condition, and its physical symptoms can have a huge impact on someone’s mental health and relationships.

Diagnosis of Endometriosis

The diagnosis of endometriosis is unfortunately still very challenging, due to the nonspecific nature of symptoms, lack of awareness among both patients and healthcare providers, and limitations of non-invasive diagnostic methods. Because of that, it usually takes between 7 and 10 years from the first symptoms to a definitive diagnosis. Some of the diagnostic tools are:

  • Physical exam: A pelvic exam may identify abnormalities or cysts related to endometriosis.
  • MRI: Pelvic MRI can help visualise the reproductive organs and identify endometriosis-related cysts, known as endometriomas.
  • Ultrasound: A combination of both transvaginal and abdominal ultrasounds, especially when performed by experienced professionals and with bowel preparation, is usually the best imaging method when endometriosis is suspected.
  • Laparoscopy: Known as the “key-hole surgery”, this minimally invasive surgical procedure allows direct visualisation of the pelvic organs and biopsy of the endometriotic lesions, and is considered the gold standard for diagnosing endometriosis.

Treatments of Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a complex condition, and treatment options vary depending on the severity of the case, how they respond to different therapies, and individual patients. Differently than a lot of people believe, surgery is not the only option.

  • Pain killers: Over-the-counter pain- relief medications, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help manage pain associated with endometriosis.
  • Hormone therapy: Birth control pills, patches, or rings can help control hormone levels, potentially reducing pain and preventing the growth of endometrial tissue.
  • Alternative methods: Therapies such as acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been shown to provide symptom relief for endometriosis. However, large-scale studies are still needed to confirm those benefits. They can also be used in association with more traditional therapies, when discussed with a healthcare provider.
  • Surgery: In some cases, when not responding to the previous therapies or with severe involvement of organs much as the bowel, surgery might be necessary.
  • Therapy / Counseling: The emotional aspects of endometriosis can be as impactful as the physical symptoms. Taking care of the mental health and sexual implications of someone with endometriosis is fundamental.

Complications of Endometriosis

Endometriosis can lead to several complications, including:

  • Infertility: Endometriotic lesions and inflammation can potentially distort the pelvic and uterine tubes. The immunological component to endometriosis also seems to be involved with conception being more challenging.
  • Other pregnancy-related complications: Some studies have shown that people with endometriosis may be at a higher risk of preterm birth, placenta previa, and a higher risk of delivery by caesarean section.
  • Adhesions: Endometriosis can cause scar tissue and adhesions to develop, leading to pelvic tissues and organs sticking together. This can cause pain in different degrees, from mild to debilitating, and potentially impact fertility.
  • Ovarian cancer: There are some studies suggesting that people with endometriosis have a slightly higher risk of developing certain types of ovarian cancer.

How to Cope with Endometriosis

Coping with endometriosis can be very challenging, not only because of its physical symptoms, such as pelvic pain, bowel symptoms and fatigue, but also for the emotional implications of what this diagnosis brings, especially when causing debilitating pain, sexual dysfunction, and subfertility. Some of the strategies for folks to cope with this condition are:

  • Education: Having more knowledge about their condition can be highly supportive.
  • Support groups: Connecting with other people who are going through the same, either online or in person, can bring not only emotional support, but also bring insights on different strategies to cope with it.
  • Emotional support: Having a supportive network of family, friends, and professional therapists, counselors, or coaches, can help lighten the weight of living with endometriosis.
  • Lifestyle changes: Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and good sleep can help improve overall health and manage symptoms.


Understanding endometriosis is fundamental to bring awareness, allowing earlier diagnosis, ongoing research, better treatments, and hopefully a cure for this condition in the near future. It's a condition that can unfortunately significantly impact someone's quality of life, sexual health, and fertility. If you think you may have endometriosis, make sure you seek medical attention. Your doctors will not only be able to help you find a solution for your symptoms, but also control the progression of the disease and help prevent more severe complications. The right information and therapies can definitely allow people to live healthy, fulfilling lives with endometriosis.


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