Women's Health Matters

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Endo-what? How do you say it?
The correct way to say it is en-doh-mee-tree-oh-sis. Sometimes people just call it endo for short.

What are the causes?
Nobody knows for sure what causes endometriosis. Some theories suggest that it has to do with the backward flow of menstrual discharge during a woman's period and problems with the woman's immune system. The disease has also been linked to environmental toxins – dioxin and PCBs. To learn more about the possible causes of endometriosis, read our Medical Description section.

Why do some people think endometriosis is caused by dioxin and other toxins?
Scientists studying animals with high levels of dioxin observed that many of these animals had endometriosis. For example, in one study, 79 percent of rhesus monkeys exposed to dioxins had signs of endometriosis. The endometriosis was most severe in the animals that were exposed to the highest levels of dioxin.

Small studies, which have tested women with endometriosis, have also found dioxins/PCBs in their bodies. However, we don't know whether many healthy women in our society might also have high levels of these chemicals. Researchers are now trying to do more systematic comparisons of dioxin levels in women who have endometriosis and women who do not.

Is there a cure for endometriosis?
To find a cure, you need to know the cause. Although there are different ways to treat endometriosis, there is no cure; the cause is unknown.

Can I die from endometriosis?
No. Women do not die from having endometriosis.

Who can get endometriosis?
Any woman can develop endometriosis any time after puberty.

What should I do if I have symptoms?
As soon as you have any symptoms, you should see your family doctor. Your doctor may then refer you to a specialist if necessary.

Is there any way I can prevent getting endometriosis?
Avoiding exposure to environmental toxins, such as dioxin and PCBs, may help prevent endometriosis.

You should visit your doctor regularly for physicals. Staying healthy, exercising and eating right may not prevent endometriosis, but a good lifestyle can minimize the symptoms and severity of the disease if it does develop.

Can I get endometriosis if I've never been pregnant?
Yes. Any woman of reproductive age can develop endometriosis. Women who have and have not been pregnant, and women who have given birth, can all develop endometriosis.

Will I ever be able to have a baby?
Sixty to 70 percent of women who have endometriosis have no problems getting pregnant; however, 30 to 40 percent do have difficulties getting pregnant. Because it becomes harder to get pregnant the longer a woman has the disease, you may be advised to not delay getting pregnant.

Can I get endometriosis if I'm not sexually active?
Yes. Endometriosis is not a sexually transmitted infection.

Doesn't pregnancy cure endo?
No. Many times the symptoms of endometriosis will go away when a woman becomes pregnant. This is partly because she no longer gets her period. But it is possible for the illness to return after giving birth.

Can teenagers get endometriosis?
Yes. Teenagers, whether they’re virgins or sexually active, can get endometriosis.

But isn't menstrual pain just a normal part of growing up?
No. Not all women have menstrual pain. Severe pain can mean that something is wrong.

Maybe all the pain is just in my head?
Your pain is real. Endometriosis pain can be excruciating, and is something that should be taken seriously.


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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital