EndometriosisEndometriosis Signs and Symptoms

Let’s Talk About Endometriosis Signs and Symptoms

How do you know when it’s run-of-the-mill period pain—or something more? We asked the experts what to look out for with this chronic condition.

    Our Pro PanelEndometriosis Symptoms

    We went to some of the nation’s top experts in endometriosis to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    Ritchie Delara, M.D.

    Ritchie Delara, M.D.Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgeon, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

    University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
    Aurora, CO
    Mary Jane Minkin, M.D.

    Mary Jane Minkin, M.D.Clinical Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Services

    Yale School of Medicine
    New Haven, CT
    Stacey Missmer, Sc.D.

    Stacey Missmer, Sc.D.Professor, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology

    Michigan State University
    Grand Rapids, MI

    Frequently Asked QuestionsEndometriosis Symptoms

    What causes endometriosis?

    Experts think it’s something called retrograde menstruation, when menstrual fluid flows upwards rather than down and out of the body. That fluid is released into the pelvic cavity, where endometrial cells attach to the walls of other organs and start growing.

    Why is endometriosis hard to diagnose?

    Partly because symptoms can mimic other disorders, and partly because 20% to 25% of women who have endometriosis are asymptomatic, the condition can be hard to identify. Between 30% and 50% of women with endometriosis have infertility issues and discover the condition when they try to get pregnant.

    Who is at risk for endometriosis?

    Let’s start with all women! After that, those with autoimmune disease, chronic inflammatory conditions, or women who have previously had pelvic surgery are all at higher risk for developing this condition. There appears to be a genetic predisposition as well.

    How is endometriosis diagnosed?

    The only way to conclusively diagnose endometriosis is via laparoscopy: an operation in which small cuts are made in the abdomen and instruments including a tiny camera are inserted for visual information and to take tissue samples for lab analysis and confirmation.

    Marjorie Korn

    Marjorie Korn

    Marjorie Korn is a health, medicine, and features writer based in New York City. She is also a Narrative Medicine instructor at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons.