Endometriosis: The disease no one likes to talk about

Endometriosis: The disease no one likes to talk about
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Endometriosis is one of the most common causes of infertility, and also the culprit behind painful menstrual cramps.

The condition means that the tissue lining the uterus grows on other structures in the body, and some 5 million women experience it, according to gynecologist Dr. Stanley Kordisch. New research shows a link between dioxin exposure and getting endometriosis. Dioxin is a toxic chemical used in the making of pesticides and burning of wastes.

Dr. Kordisch says symptoms can include pelvic pain, painful cramps, pain during intercourse, irregular periods, longer periods and more.

Growths of endometriosis are not cancerous, but they do cause many other problems from blocking the fallopian tubes to interfering with the intestines and bladder. Dr. Kordisch said it's more likely to affect women with a family history and irregular periods.

"It tends to occur a little bit more in women who are in their 30s and 40s, specifically the ones that have never been on birth control pills or never been pregnant," according to Dr. Kordisch.

If bowel movements are painful during your period, intercourse is painful and cramps increase, experts say it's time to see a doctor. A pelvic exam, ultrasound or minor surgery called laparoscopy will confirm the diagnosis.

Mild or moderate cases can be treated with hormone treatments like birth control pills, laser treatments or cauterization. Moderate to severe cases need to be removed surgically, according to Dr. Kordisch. What treatment is most appropriate for you could also depend on your age or plans to become pregnant.