Endometriosis affects about 10% of people assigned female at birth (AFAB), many of whom are women.
There isn’t much data on how many transgender and nonbinary people have endometriosis — but it’s
Endometriosis can also affect people assigned male at birth (AMAB). But this is extremely rare. Experts have only documented
Although almost anybody can develop endometriosis, certain factors may increase your risk.
You may be
- a short menstrual cycle (under 27 days)
- a heavy menstrual period (more than 7 days)
- an immediate family member with the condition
- difficulty becoming pregnant
high estrogen levels
- menstruation before 11 years old
Experiencing one or more of the above factors doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop endometriosis. But if you’re at risk of developing the condition, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for early symptoms.
One of the most common early symptoms of endometriosis is pelvic pain. Although pelvic pain may result from many health conditions, getting medical help is a good idea if you experience persistent pelvic pain.
Other early symptoms include:
- bleeding between menstrual periods
- difficulty getting pregnant
- difficulty sleeping
- lower back pain
- painful menstruation
- pain during vaginal or anal penetration
- pain during urination or bowel movements
Not all people with endometriosis experience all of the above symptoms. It’s possible to have endometriosis even if you don’t have these early symptoms.
A healthcare professional, usually a gynecologist, can diagnose endometriosis. You can speak with a general practitioner about your symptoms, and they may screen you for endometriosis, but they’ll likely direct you to a gynecologist for an official diagnosis.
If you think you have endometriosis, your doctor may begin by asking about your symptoms, medical history, and family medical history. They may also try to rule out other health conditions, like ovarian cysts or irritable bowel syndrome, which may cause similar symptoms.
Doctors typically use a laparoscopic surgical biopsy to diagnose endometriosis, which allows them to remove atypical tissues and test them to see whether they result from endometriosis.
A laparoscopy is currently the only way to give a 100% certain diagnosis of endometriosis, but it’s an invasive surgical procedure. Because of this, your doctor may perform a pelvic exam or ultrasound to narrow down a diagnosis before recommending a laparoscopy.
The diagnostic process can be complex. It can take some people 4–11 years to get a diagnosis after the onset of their symptoms.
Consider speaking with a gynecologist if you have:
- endometriosis symptoms that don’t result from another medical condition
- severe menstrual pain
- symptoms that feel debilitating
It’s especially important to speak with a doctor if you experience any of the above and have the risk factors for developing endometriosis.
Even if you don’t have endometriosis, it’s worth getting medical help if your symptoms affect your quality of life. Some of the endometriosis symptoms can look like those of pelvic inflammatory disease or polycystic ovary syndrome.
Endometriosis is fairly common. Many people with endometriosis are women, but trans men and nonbinary people can also develop endometriosis. There’ve also been a few cases of people AMAB developing endometriosis.
The symptoms of endometriosis vary from person to person, but they can be debilitating. A diagnosis can help you access effective treatment. Speak with a doctor if you think you have endometriosis.
Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information.