Endometriosis is a painful disorder that you may hear about, but not know much about. It occurs when tissue that lines the uterus grows outside of the uterus. Though certain symptoms, such as extremely painful menstrual cramps,can be common signs of endometriosis, there are also more subtle signs of endometriosis that a woman may experience. Sometimes, you may think a symptom you’re having, such as painful periods, may be no big deal, but it’s important to get it checked out and see what’s behind the symptom.
Lena Dunham had a a total hysterectomy earlier this year to end the chronic pain she had as a result of endometriosis. And Dunham’s not alone —more than 11 percent of American women between the ages of 15 and 44 are affected by endometriosis, although it is most common among women in their 30s and 40s. Among women with it, it can also impact their fertility, so it is important to see a doctor if you experience any symptoms of endometriosis.
“‘Endometrial implants,’ as they are referred to, can be found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowels, bladder, and anywhere else in the pelvis,” Dr. Sherry A. Ross, women’s health expert and author of she-ology. The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period., tells Bustle. “The onset of symptoms related to endometriosis varies person to person, and symptoms happen as a result of your menstrual cycles.” She says that, with each period, the endometrial implants will bleed — no matter where they are located in your body — and the most common symptom is severe menstrual cramps.
Dr. Ross says that the most common symptoms of endometriosis are related to pain, which can be chronic and disruptive. However, she says that it’s important to pay attention to lesser-known symptoms of endometriosis, too. Below, she and other experts weigh in.