Endometriosis: Busting 5 Common Myths

Despite affecting up to 20% of menstruating individuals in the U.S., endometriosis remains underdiagnosed and frequently overlooked. Countless women endure silent battles with endometriosis for years, primarily due to its diverse symptoms and the many misconceptions surrounding it. Here are five common myths about endometriosis and the essential facts you need to know:

Myth: Endometriosis is simply a really painful period.

Severe pain during your menstrual period is not normal. While it’s common to have pelvic cramps and some discomfort during menstruation, experiencing intense pain that significantly affects your daily life could be a sign of endometriosis. Endometriosis is a disease in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus, leading to inflammation and the formation of scar tissue in the pelvic region and rarely in other parts of the body.

Endometriosis may cause other symptoms including pelvic discomfort during or after intercourse, pain during bowel movements or urination, persistent pelvic pain, heavy menstrual bleeding or bleeding between periods, bloating, nausea, fatigue and difficulties conceiving. (Sources: 1, 2)

Myth: Endometriosis only affects people approaching menopause.

Endometriosis is typically diagnosed between the ages of 25 and 40, although it can affect individuals who menstruate at any age. Globally, approximately 190 million menstruating individuals of reproductive age struggle with endometriosis. The disease is often underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed, causing a delay of four to eleven years between the onset of symptoms and receiving a diagnosis. (Sources: 3, 4, 5

Myth: Endometriosis is caused by tampons or sexual activity.

There’s no scientific evidence to suggest that tampons or sexual activity directly cause endometriosis. This condition is multifaceted and likely arises from a combination of factors. Although its exact causes remain unknown, potential risk factors may involve genetic predispositions, hormonal imbalances and immune system irregularities. Since the exact causes of endometriosis aren’t clearly understood, there are currently no known methods to prevent it. (Sources: 6, 7)

Myth: Endometriosis is always painful

Symptoms of endometriosis can vary, and not everyone with the condition experiences intense pain or discomfort. You might have severe pain with mild endometriosis, or have extensive endometriosis tissue with minimal to no discomfort. Often, individuals only find out they have the condition when testing for infertility treatment or after having surgery for unrelated reasons. (Sources: 8, 9)

Myth: Endometriosis always prevents pregnancy.

Up to half of infertile individuals are found to have endometriosis. However, having or being diagnosed with endometriosis doesn’t guarantee infertility. People with endometriosis who are struggling to get pregnant should make an appointment with their gynecologist or fertility specialist, who will consider age, overall health, symptoms and other factors to determine the best treatment plan. (Source: 10)

Dispelling the myths and understanding the facts surrounding endometriosis can help more people seek an early diagnosis. Starting treatment early can delay or stop the disease from getting worse and lessen long-term symptoms. Various treatment options, including medications, hormonal therapies, surgical procedures such as laparoscopy, and lifestyle modifications, can effectively manage symptoms and improve quality of life for those affected. (Source: 11)