At the University of Chicago Medicine, our experts are dedicated to improving the lives of women with endometriosis. Whether it's correcting or confirming your diagnosis, relieving your pain, offering a second opinion for treatment, performing optimized surgical techniques or providing fertility treatment, our multidisciplinary team has the experience to support you through the challenges and discomforts of endometriosis.

Frequently Asked Questions about Endometriosis

The endometrium is a layer of tissue that lines the inside of the uterus. When endometrial tissue grows anywhere outside of a woman’s uterus, she has endometriosis.

Endometriosis is thought to affect approximately 10 percent of women of reproductive age. Although it involves tissue — called implants or lesions — that spreads from one organ to others, endometriosis is not a cancerous condition.

Endometriosis symptoms vary from woman to woman, depending on the number, location and size of her lesions. Some women are affected significantly, while others are not symptomatic at all.

In most cases, signs and symptoms may include:

  • Heavy or abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Increased fatigue
  • Infertility or reduced fertility (subfertility)
  • Lower back, leg or stomach pain during periods 
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Painful bowel movements or urination
  • Pelvic pain, particularly during or immediately before or after your period 

Endometrial implants can spread to a number of pelvic organs, including the outside of the uterus and on or around the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder and intestines. In rare cases, endometrial lesions can grow elsewhere within the body, such as the liver, lungs, large bowel or rectum.

Often women with endometriosis experience severe pelvic pain. Pain occurs when:

  • Endometrial implants stimulate and irritate nerves, sometimes also causing leg pain.
  • Friction between lesions causes the build up of adhesions and scar tissue on pelvic organs.
  • The hormonal cycle causes endometrial implants to bleed, increasing inflammation and irritation around pelvic organs.

In addition to abdominal pain, inflammation in the pelvis may also cause pain in the lower back or pain during sexual intercourse.

Researchers are actively studying potential causes of endometriosis. Currently, there is a strong indication that the body’s genetic make-up may play a significant role in who develops endometriosis. This means your risk may be greater if your mother, aunt or sister has endometriosis.

Portrait of gynecologists Monica Christmas, MD, and Laura Douglass, MD

7 Silent Signs You Could Have Endometriosis

In this Readers' Digest article, physician experts — including UChicago Medicine's Monica Christmas, MD, and Laura Douglass, MD — explain less common signs and symptoms of endometriosis.

Read the article

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