Endometriosis occurs when uterine-like tissue grows in other places in the body. It’s a progressive condition, which means untreated symptoms may worsen over time.

Endometrial-like tissue that continues to grow outside the uterus can lead to pain, scarring, inflammation, and cysts of all sizes.

The buildup of rogue tissue can attach to the surrounding organs causing them to essentially “stick” together. This fibrous tissue growing and spreading can cause pain, especially during menstruation.

There’s no cure for endometriosis, but symptoms may lessen after menopause.

Endometriosis can have a large impact on your quality of life.

If left untreated, you could experience severe pain and discomfort including:

You may also experience anxiety, irritability, pelvic pain, or depression which seems to worsen during menstruation.

There isn’t a cure for endometriosis, but there are many treatment options available to help manage its symptoms.

All bodies are different. You may experience some of these symptoms to varying degrees, but the absence of these symptoms does not exclude endometriosis. Some lesions can be small and undetectable without the use of surgery.

Endometriosis is medically classified into four different stages. These stages are determined by where the tissue is growing in the body, how much endometrial-like tissue is growing, and how far it’s spread in those areas.

Endometrial-like tissue that grows outside of the uterus can attach to the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, intestines, or any of the other surrounding areas. This tissue bleeds and sheds the same way the lining sheds and bleeds during menstruation, but it cannot escape the body as easily.

The buildup eventually leads to lesions and cysts, which can block the fallopian tubes and cause infertility. Some estimates suggest that 30 to 50% of women who have endometriosis also experience infertility.

People who have endometriosis may also be more likely to develop other disorders related to autoimmune dysregulation or pain.

This includes:

Endometriosis may also be a risk factor in developing certain types of cancer, though more research is needed to truly understand the potential relationship.

If you suspect your symptoms are related to endometriosis and you don’t already have a diagnosis, it’s important to consult with a doctor or other healthcare professional.

A pelvic exam can help locate large cysts. During the exam, your clinician may press on the outer stomach to check for large polyps.

They may request an ultrasound or an MRI to look for smaller lesions that cannot be felt during the exam. In many cases, surgery is ultimately needed to make a definitive diagnosis.

If you already have an endometriosis diagnosis and develop new or worsening symptoms, make an appointment with a healthcare professional.

Your symptoms could be related to another underlying condition, and early diagnosis and treatment may help prevent further complications.

Your clinician can also recommend an appropriate screening schedule for endometriosis-related conditions.

Endometriosis will not get better on its own. If you believe your symptoms may be a sign, make an appointment with a doctor or other healthcare professional.

Keeping a log of your symptoms may help your clinician make a diagnosis and get you started with the right treatment options sooner rather than later.

Multiple treatment options are available to help manage pain and other endometriosis symptoms.

Catasha Gordon is a sexuality educator from Spencer, Oklahoma. She’s the owner and founder of Expression Over Repression, a company built around sexual expression and knowledge. You can typically find her creating sex education materials or building some kinky hardware in a fresh set of coffin nails. She enjoys catfish (tail on), gardening, eating off her husband’s plate, and Beyoncé. Follow her everywhere.