What every woman should know about endometriosis

Endometriosis occurs in about 5 million women in the United States, according to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health. But what is it?

Here’s what the Office on Women’s Health says about the affliction:

1. Endometriosis occurs when the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. This painful condition is common in women in their 30s-40s.

2. Endometriosis growths are not cancerous but they can cause pain by blocking fallopian tubes or growing into the ovaries. They also can cause inflammation, form scar tissue and adhesions, which may lead to pelvic pain and making becoming pregnant difficult. It can also create problems in the intestines and bladder.

3. Pain is the most common symptom of endometriosis, and may include intense menstrual cramps, chronic pain in the lower back of the pelvis, pain during or after sex, intestinal pain and painful bowel movements. Other symptoms of endometriosis include bleeding or spotting between menstrual cycles, infertility and digestive problems.

4. Endometriosis can’t be prevented, according to the Office on Women’s Health. However, lowering your estrogen levels can reduce your chances of developing endometriosis. You can lower your estrogen levels by talking to your doctor about birth control methods, exercising regularly, avoiding large amounts of alcohol and excessive caffeine.

5. While there is no cure for endometriosis, it is possible to control its symptoms and complications with prescription medicine or surgery.

If you experience any of the symptoms associated with endometriosis, see your health care provider.