Every woman with a regular menstrual cycle sheds the lining of her uterus approximately every 28 days during her monthly period. Endometriosis occurs when the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus and causes painful complications. The good news is that endometriosis is very treatable, and there are a variety of options available to you.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis happens when the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, spreads outside the uterus unrelated to a menstrual cycle. This tissue may attach to the ovaries, intestines and/or ligaments in the pelvis. Endometriosis may occur in flat patches, or grow into large and small cysts.

In severe cases, endometriosis can spread widely throughout the pelvic region and bind together with the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and/or intestines, leading to scar tissue and fertility issues.

Symptoms and warning signs of endometriosis can include:

  • Painful periods
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Intestinal disturbance with periods
  • Pelvic pain
  • Infertility
  • Fatigue

Causes of endometriosis

While the exact cause of endometriosis is unknown, it may be associated with:

  • Retrograde menstruation
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Surgical scars

People at risk for developing endometriosis include those who:

  • Are 25-40 years old
  • Have never had children
  • Have experienced irregular periods since puberty
  • Have a family history of endometriosis

Diagnosis and testing for endometriosis

A healthcare provider will perform tests to confirm an endometriosis diagnosis. These tests may include:

Endometrosis treatment options

When infertility is the main concern, fertility drugs, artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization (IVF) may also be advised as treatment options.

Other treatment options may include:

  • Hormonal therapy: Using progesterone to mimic the state of pregnancy or menopause may help ease endometriosis.
  • Oral contraceptives: Commonly known as "the pill," oral contraceptives can help with symptoms of endometriosis, including extreme cramping.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, may help with painful symptoms of endometriosis.
  • Surgery: Minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery may be needed to scrape away the endometrium that has spread within the pelvic region. Many times, women who are infertile because of endometriosis are able to become pregnant right away after having this procedure.

Next steps for patient

If you’d like to meet with a provider and find the best care options, it’s time to reach out to Main Line Health. Schedule a visit with a gynecologist today.

Call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or request an appointment online.

Women’s health care at Main Line Health

Our specialists provide the latest technological advancements with expertise and compassion—working to find the best possible treatment while prioritizing your comfort and peace of mind throughout the care journey.

At Main Line Health, you’ll have access to:

  • Advanced gynecology program—provides patients with collaborative, advanced treatments for complex benign gynecologic conditions. Our multidisciplinary team can meet your individual care needs through comprehensive evaluation and developing personalized treatment plans.
  • Excellence in gynecological care—including treatment for serious gynecological issues, at locations that are close to home and easy to access.
  • Physicians near you—who provide a full range of general and specialized gynecologic services for women, from yearly well-woman exams and cancer screenings to highly specialized procedures—including advanced laparoscopic, hysteroscopic and robotic approaches.
  • Main Line Health's Philadelphia area hospitals—Lankenau Medical Center, Bryn Mawr Hospital, Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital offer comprehensive women's health services to meet your needs and those of your family. Our healthcare experts are uniquely qualified to address the special concerns of women.