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Endometriosis: Symptoms and Risk Factors

Endometriosis is a common medical disorder in which some of the cells that normally make up the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) appear in other parts of the body, most commonly in the pelvis and abdomen. It is a frequent cause of painful menstrual periods and pelvic pain and may result in infertility.

The cause of endometriosis is unknown, but is thought to be associated with backward flow of menstrual tissue through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvis and abdomen.

Endometriosis is largely dependent on active menstruation. The disease rarely occurs before the onset of adolescence or after menopause.


The severity of the disease varies greatly from one person to another. It can be asymptomatic or severe, is sometimes debilitating. Symptoms are often nonspecific and do not always correlate with the severity of disease. Most women with endometriosis have no symptoms. However, here are symptoms that suggest endometriosis:

  • Pelvic, abdominal, or low–back pain occurring during the premenstrual or menstrual period
  • Abnormal menstrual bleeding
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Infertility
  • Further symptoms occur based on the location of endometrial tissue (e.g., rectal bleeding may occur if endometriosis occurs in the colon; abdominal pain may occur if endometriosis occurs in the bladder).

Risk Factors

The risk factors for endometriosis are not well understood. It is most commonly diagnosed in women in their late 20s and early 30s, and the occurrence is increased by 7 percent in first–degree relatives. Dietary factors may play a role and are discussed in Nutritional Considerations.


Endometriosis: Diagnosis and Treatment >>