Endometriosis is a serious condition that affects up to 10% of women, but it’s just one of many conditions that impact pelvic floor health. The pelvic floor contains the bladder, bowels and reproductive organs, all complex systems that can lead to many different issues – some of which may overlap or have similar symptoms.
Understanding the symptoms and condition you may be experiencing is an important step towards getting treatment. That’s why we’re comparing endometriosis and other pelvic floor disorders below, so you can stay educated and empowered about your pelvic health.
What is Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a common pelvic disorder that can lead to painful cramping and inflammation, as well as symptoms like bloating, constipation and painful sex. It happens when tissue that normally grows on the inner walls of the uterus also grows outside the uterus, attaching to other organs. This tissue acts like regular endometrial tissue, in that it builds up and sloughs off along with your normal menstrual cycle. But since it is outside the uterus, it has no where to go – so it become trapped, leading overtime to scarring, cysts and inflammation.
Endometriosis can range from mild to severe, and treatment will depend on the severity. Learn more about endometriosis here.
Endometriosis Vs. PCOS
Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormonal disorder that affects the ovaries of women of childbearing age. Like endometriosis, it is quite common, affecting 5 to 20% of women. But while endometriosis is linked to excess estrogen, PCOS is linked to excess androgen (male hormones). 1
PCOS is indicated by three main types of symptoms. As the name suggests, the first is cysts on the ovaries, which can make it difficult for them to function. The second is infrequent, irregular or prolonged periods. And because of excess androgen, you may experience physical symptoms like excess hair, acne or even male-pattern baldness. 2
It is possible to have both endometriosis and PCOS, and they share many symptoms, such as heavy bleeding, pelvic pain and difficulty getting pregnant.
Endometriosis Vs. Adenomyosis
Adenomyosis is another common pelvic health disorder, though it is less well known. With adenomyosis, the uterine lining begins to grow into and break through the muscles of the uterus. This is not dangerous, but it can cause pain and excessive bleeding. Because it ranges in severity, some women do not realize they have adenomyosis, although it is estimated that up to 65% of women may be impacted by it.
Endometriosis is a common risk factor for adenomyosis (along with childbirth, middle age and previous uterine surgery). Like with endometriosis, symptoms can include painful and or/heavy menstrual cramps, pelvic pain, painful intercourse and infertility. Learn more about adenomyosis here.
Endometriosis Vs. Uterine Fibroids
Uterine fibroids are another common issue, affecting between 20 to 40% of women during their reproductive years. Fibroids are tumors that are almost always non-cancerous (only about 1% become cancerous).
Depending on their severity, women may not notice fibroids. Otherwise, fibroids, like endometriosis, can cause painful intercourse, cramping, miscarriage or infertility. Fibroids can also cause prolonged or heavy bleeding during or in between menstrual cycles, so it is easy to see how women might confuse these symptoms with those of endometriosis, PCOS or adenomyosis.
Learn more about uterine fibroids here.
Endometriosis Vs. PID
Endometriosis is often mistaken for pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID. This is an infection of the reproductive organs that can leave to severe pelvic pain. Like with endometriosis, it can lead to ectopic pregnancy, infertility, painful sex and abnormal uterine bleeding.
With so many overlapping symptoms, determining what is causing your issues can be challenging. That’s why it can be helpful to find a doctor specializing in pelvic floor disorders. You may also want to write down all your symptoms before seeing your doctor, to ensure you cover everything that can help determine the next course of action.