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By Chaunie Brusie, RN

Is your period incredibly painful, especially in the days leading up to your cycle? Is intercourse painful for you? Do other women in your family—like your mother, aunts, or sisters—also have similar symptoms? You may be experiencing endometriosis.

What Is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a chronic condition that results when the tissue that lines the uterus also grows outside of the uterus. This tissue builds up and forms adhesions that can attach to the bladder, bowel, vagina, and other places within the reproductive tract.

These adhesions build up with every menstrual cycle and, unlike the lining that is shed during a woman's period, the tissue that builds up outside the uterus remains. This can cause severe pain for women, along with other symptoms such as heavy or irregular bleeding, cramping, stomach problems including constipation, and painful intercourse. The condition can impact a woman's quality of life, interfere with her relationships, and also affect fertility.

Despite the fact that approximately 1 in 10 are affected by endometriosis, Beth Battaglino, RN, CEO of HealthyWomen, explains that the condition can be commonly overlooked by doctors. Doctors may not be well aware of the symptoms of endometriosis or they may not be taking the time to assess a woman's pelvic health and the symptoms that can be associated with variations of pelvic health disorders.

Endometriosis, in particular, can go overlooked for a very long time.

"Many women go 6 to 10 years before an accurate diagnosis of endometriosis," Battaglino notes. This can be due to the fact that women aren't talking about their symptoms to their doctors and that, often, doctors aren't accurately assessing patients for the condition as part of their overall discussion on pelvic health.

In order to change that, it's important to raise awareness about endometriosis—both among women and among their doctors.

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