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How do I Tell the Difference Between Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain?

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  • Written By: Dorothy Bland
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2016
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It can often be difficult for women to tell the difference between endometriosis and pelvic pain because of the similarity of various symptoms. Although the two conditions are somewhat similar, they are not the same medical condition. In fact, endometriosis can be described as a type of chronic pelvic pain. Accurately differentiating between endometriosis and pelvic pain will possibly require knowledge of the types of medical conditions that can lead to pelvic pain, a review of your specific symptoms, and a visit to your doctor.

Pelvic pain has a long list of possible causes and can be considered acute or chronic. For women who are pregnant or suspect they are pregnant, pelvic pain can be a sign that something is wrong. A sudden onset of sharp pain and bleeding, for example, may indicate a miscarriage or a tubal pregnancy.

The most prevalent gynecological causes of pelvic pain are usually related to menstruation and ovulation. For most women, menstruation causes some pain in the form of common menstrual cramps. When the pain is severe or lasts for days at a time, however, endometriosis may be the culprit. Another possibility is dysmenorrheal, a condition causing painful periods that can present with everything from nausea to headaches. For some women, the resulting pain can be so severe that it limits the ability to participate in normal activities.

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An additional source of endometriosis and pelvic pain are the ovaries, which are responsible for triggering ovulation. Ovarian cysts, which are fluid-filled sacs, can form in the ovaries and cause pelvic pain that radiates to the lower back. The pain may be accompanied by nausea and a feeling that the bladder is not fully empty, even after urinating.

Unlike endometriosis, pelvic pain does not actually have to have a gynecological relationship. Other organs in the pelvic region such as the bladder, kidney, or rectum could be behind your symptoms of endometriosis and pelvic pain. Kidney stones, for instance, start in the kidneys. As they journey through the urinary tract and out of the body, however, they can cause severe sharp pain in the pelvic region.

Chronic pelvic pain refers to pain that last for longer than six months; the pain, however, is not the illness, but just a symptom of the condition. One underlying condition that could be responsible is endometriosis, a condition in which the uteral lining, or endometrial tissue, begins to grow in other parts of the pelvis. In many women, no pain or other symptoms occur. For those with endometriosis and pelvic pain, the pain tends to increase in intensity over time and usually worsens around menstruation. Other symptoms of endometriosis pain include pain during sexual intercourse, irregular periods, and infertility.

Ultimately, determining the difference between endometriosis and pelvic pain will come down to making a visit to your doctor’s office. To get an accurate diagnosis of pelvic pain, your doctor will likely ask you to describe your symptoms and will likely use several types of diagnostic tests. A pregnancy test may be done to eliminate pregnancy as the cause, while a urine analysis can be used to check for kidney stones. Blood tests are also likely to be done to check for underlying infections. Various images may also be used to get a better look at structures within the pelvis.

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