Endometriosis: Does It Affect You?

When I was first asked to write an article about endometriosis my response was a simple one, "sure, I’ll do it." As I began to gather research I thought to myself how quick and easy this was going to be. I already possessed a great deal of medical literature on the subject and I thought I could easily regurgitate a page full of statistics, case studies, and theories.

While I was revising my second draft something occurred to me, I realized that my article had no human perspective at all, it was in fact, just cold recited statistics. This was absurd, I thought to myself. You see, I live with endometriosis everyday. So drafts one and two were quickly thrown into my recycle bin, in hopes that maybe I could help even one person to understand this debilitating condition.

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a hormonal and immune condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (endometrium) is found outside the uterus. It is usually found in the abdomen, fallopian tubes, ovaries, between the vagina and rectum, and the ligaments supporting the uterus. Endometrial growths may also be found in the bladder, bowel, cervix, and less commonly in places like the lungs or arms.

This endometrial tissue responds to a woman’s normal monthly hormone cycle. However, unlike endometrium in the uterus which is shed as a menstrual period, tissue growing outside the uterus has no where to go. It continually builds up month after month. This causes adhesions that may become attached to nearby organs such as fallopian tubes, ovaries, or bowel which causes a wide variety of symptoms including moderate to severe abdominal pain, bowel problems, or infertility.


The signs and symptoms of endometriosis are as different as the women who possess them. Some women are very fortunate and have few or no symptoms. Others of us aren’t quite as lucky.

The most common symptoms are painful periods, pain during ovulation, irregular periods, diarrhea or painful bowel movements during periods, painful sex, fatigue, and abdominal bloating. There are many other symptoms that aren’t as common, they may include: infertility, chronic yeast infections, decreased immune system, nausea or stomach discomfort during periods, mid-cycle bleeding, or painful urination.


Diagnosing endometriosis, or "endo" as we refer to it, can be extremely difficult. The symptoms listed above can also be signs of a variety of other conditions from ovarian cysts to a pelvic infection. Endo was once falsely called the "career woman’s disease." We now know that it was titled this because working women generally had more resources to seek continuous medical care.

Most women with endometriosis have seen multiple health care professionals before getting a correct diagnosis. Unfortunately, the "it’s all in your head" myth is still prevalent, especially with teen girls complaining of painful periods.

Endo affects women from all races, all ethnicities, all childbearing aged women, and all social groups — it does not discriminate.

The only definite way to diagnose endo is through surgery. The most common procedure is laparoscopy. It’s a fairly simple procedure performed under general anesthesia. A small incision is made in the woman’s belly button and the laparoscope is inserted. Looking through the scope the doctor can then identify where possible endo adhesions may be found. Oftentimes, the woman and her physician have decided ahead of time that any visible endometriosis will be removed at that time. However, endo adhesions often may not be visible through the scope and diagnosis may become more difficult.


Currently, there is no cure, but several treatment options are available. One thing to consider when deciding on a treatment method is what is the goal trying to be achieved. For example; mild to moderate endo that doesn't prevent a woman from her normal daily routine may only need pain medication.

More severe endo sufferers with multiple symptoms may get relief through hormone therapy, alternative therapies, or conservative to radical surgery. Hormone therapy is intended to stop ovulation. There are many different methods of hormone therapy and they may include: oral contraceptives, Danazol (a testosterone derivative), progesterone drugs, or GnRH drugs (gonadotropin releasing hormone). The side effects from synthetic hormones can be miserable for some women. Conservative surgery includes removing the endometrial growths. More radical surgery would include removal of ovaries or complete hysterectomy.

Emotional Impact

The emotional effects of endometriosis can often outnumber the physical ones. Some days the pain can be so overwhelming that a sufferer may not be able to get out of bed. I’ve met women who have lost their jobs because of one too many of those days. Not to mention, mood swings, hot flashes, headaches, weight gain, decreased libido, or nausea from synthetic hormones can be unnerving. Constant diarrhea or constant constipation from bowel adhesions can make daily life miserable. Painful intercourse or lack of libido obviously can take their toll on a relationship or marriage. Infertility can be a devastating diagnosis. I believe this condition knows no boundaries. Its wake can be very destructive to women's lives.

I feel very fortunate that, for the most part, endometriosis does not rule my life. I have most of my symptoms under control with the help of a wonderful and truly caring physician. Although everyday I am forced to think about it and it’s effects, I guess I view it as somewhat of a challenge. A challenge that I will win! Just like any challenging facet of our lives there are good days and not-so-good days.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms I have described, I encourage you to seek a diagnosis. Early detection and treatment of endometriosis can be of great benefit.

In addition, it is essential to find out as much as you can about endo, and to learn and share your experiences with others who can offer support. There are many resources available.

The Endometriosis Association offers support groups, physician referrals, Internet chat rooms and discussion lists, news on treatment options, and a variety of educational materials.

Wishing all sufferers pain-free days,

Lisa W.
Lisa was diagnosed with endo at age 17. The views expressed above are Lisa's personal experiences and recommendations. Published in the Fall 1999 issue of the FWHC-WA newsletter.


After Lisa's experience was published, we received the following letter from a Practitioner of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture...

Thank you for your informative article on endometriosis. And thank you for at least including the words, "alternative treatments."

I would like to elaborate briefly on those two words. Chronic conditions such as endometriosis and their accompanying symptoms, including pain, hormonal imbalances, and digestive/bowel problems, often show an excellent response to alternative therapy. As a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (who got my start in the health field at Cedar River Clinic!), I can tell you that many women have changed not only their experience of endometriosis, but their whole health picture when treated with acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and/or make the necessary dietary and lifestyle changes.

The #1 rule for anyone dealing with a chronic health issue is DO NOT GIVE UP. To get to the root of it, you will need to be persistent and creative. Keep trying new therapies until you find one that fits! pain meds may "manage" endometriosis, and sometimes surgery is unavoidable, but both carry far more risk to you than most alternatives. Ask your insurance what they cover and try the least invasive first; ask your doctor for the input, but remember, you know yourself better than anyone. Follow your gut and get to the source of what ails you!

Andrea B. L.Ac.
Seattle, WA, November 1999


We also received the following email message

Just an fyi that this sentence on the Endometriosis page of your Website is not correct:

"Endo was once falsely called the "career woman's disease." We now know that it was titled this because working women generally had more resources to seek continuous medical care."

I was diagnosed with endometriosis fifteen years ago and have done quite a bit of reading on the subject. It's my understanding that Endo was called "career woman's disease" because the trend over the past 20 years or so is that working women often postpone having children into their 30s and beyond.  Because pregnancy can put Endo into "remission," those women who have children in their 20s do not suffer from prolonged symptoms, or at least have a break from the symptoms while they are pregnant. 

Women who are working and choose to postpone having children have years of prolonged, painful symptoms that would require more extensive medical care such as surgery.   So per the above sentence on your website: it's not called "career woman's disease" because working women have more resources to continous medical care. It's called that because working women often postpone childbearing into their 30s, which can worsen the Endo symptoms, which can necessitate continuous medical care.

Christine M.
Tue, 18 Sep 2007


more Endometriosis Awareness
Endo-Resolved: Positive information to aid your healing of Endometriosis

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