Fewer than a third of women know about this common disorder

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If left untreated, endometriosis may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility issues. | THINKSTOCKIMAGES.COM

Endometriosis affects about one in 10 women. So why don’t more women know its symptoms?

“I think they’re passing it off as their monthly period pain,” said registered nurse Beth Battaglino, citing the condition’s indicators: Painful urination, bowel movements and sex among other pelvic discomforts.

“They’re not bringing that up,” she said, “and health care professionals are not asking the question either.”

Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue typically found in the uterus starts to grow in other parts of the body, leading to uncomfortable long-term pelvic pain during and between periods. While two-thirds of women know someone who has endometriosis, only 29 percent of women were able to correctly identify endometriosis’ symptoms, according to a recent survey through Battaglino’s women’s health not-for-profit HealthyWomen.

It’s evidence, Battaglino said, that more needs to be done to educate woman on the condition which, if left untreated, may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility issues.

“Without informed communication of endometriosis symptoms, it can take longer for women to receive a diagnosis,” said Battaglino, HealthyWomen CEO. Some women, according to HealthyWomen, live with symptoms for six to 10 years before diagnosis.

It’s not just women who need schooling, Battaglino said, it’s medical professionals as well. Of more than 200 women with the condition, 42 percent said their health care professional told them the pain was “part of being a woman,” while nearly half said their health care provider described their symptoms as “normal.”

Most surprising to Battaglino is the 42 percent who said they didn’t know pain during sex is a common endometriosis indicator. It suggests, Battaglino said, that many women find painful sex to be normal. She said it also says many health care professionals aren’t speaking to their patients about sexual health.

Treatments for endometriosis do exist, Battaglino said, although it lacks a cure.

Her goal through the survey is to bring awareness to the disease and to educate women on its symptoms. (For more information on the campaign, visit its website, MEinEndo.com.)

“Both patients and health care professionals would benefit from further education to increase awareness of the symptoms so women can take action when they present,” she said.

Symptoms of endometriosis:

— Pelvic pain during menstruation which is often worse than normal cramping that many women experience, according to Mayo Clinic. Women may also experience pain with bowel movements while on their period.

— Pain during or after sexual intercourse is a common symptom.

— Very heavy bleeding between periods, or occasional heavy periods.

Endometriosis is sometimes diagnosed when women are seeking treatment for infertility, according to Mayo.

Sean Rossman, USA TODAY Network

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