How to Spot the Signs of Endometriosis

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Endometriosis is a painful and often misunderstood medical condition, thought to affect one in 10 women worldwide. While receiving a diagnosis can be challenging, recognising the signs and symptoms of endometriosis is crucial for early intervention and effective management. 

Endometriosis is a condition where the tissue-like lining of the uterus (the endometrium), which sheds during menstruation, grows outside the uterus. This tissue can develop on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other pelvic structures, causing great pain and discomfort. Although the exact cause of endometriosis is not fully understood, genetics, hormonal factors, and immune system dysfunction are thought to contribute to its development.

Releaf, the UK’s first all-in-one medicinal cannabis e-clinic, has broken down some of the common signs of endometriosis and some of the current issues faced around treatment.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Endometriosis 

Pelvic Pain 

Pelvic pain is a hallmark symptom, but its nature and intensity can vary from patient to patient. Some women may describe it as an intense cramping that feels like a vice grip on their pelvis, while others may experience intermittent stabbing pains or a dull ache. This pain may occur before, or during menstruation, but for some, it can persist throughout the entire menstrual cycle.

Pain during intercourse

Pain during sex can be also be a symptom of endometriosis and is caused by the endometriosis tissue growing around the back of your uterus, which can move or expand during sex. Not everyone with endometriosis will experience pain during sex, and some may find that certain positions exacerbate the pain more than others.

Painful Periods (Dysmenorrhea) 

Endometriosis can cause excruciating menstrual cramps that interfere with daily life. Dysmenorrhea, or painful periods, are common amongst women with endometriosis. Some face excruciating cramps that significantly disrupt their daily lives, while others may have milder discomfort that they attribute to typical menstrual pain.

Painful Bowel Movements or Urination

Endometriosis can also cause pain when going to the bathroom, due to tissue growing near the uterus or rectum. This can lead to gassiness, bloating, and pain near the appendix, depending on the organs affected.

Heavy Menstrual Bleeding (Menorrhagia) 

Women with endometriosis may experience heavy or irregular menstrual bleeding. Some may experience extremely heavy flows or prolonged periods, while others may have more typical bleeding patterns.


Endometriosis can commonly cause infertility, altering the function of the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the pelvic environment, which can make it difficult for women to conceive. However, not all women with endometriosis face fertility challenges.

It’s essential to recognise these signs and symptoms early to seek appropriate medical care. A diagnosis typically involves a physical exam, imaging tests, and sometimes laparoscopy (a surgical procedure to visualise and diagnose endometriosis).

Endometriosis vs. Adenomyosis (the lesser-known condition)

It’s important to differentiate endometriosis from adenomyosis, a lesser-known condition that shares similar symptoms. The key distinction lies in the location of the abnormal tissue growth: endometriosis occurs outside the uterus, while adenomyosis is confined within the uterine wall. This difference has implications for both diagnosis and treatment. 

Whilst both share common symptoms including pelvic pain and unusual or heavy bleeding patterns/periods, there can be some symptoms which are more common in just one condition. For example, as adenomyosis occurs inside the uterus, you might find your abdomen swells more, whilst endometriosis can cause issues around other organs such as bowel movements and pain in your stomach. 

While both conditions can cause pain and menstrual irregularities, they require different management approaches. Accurate diagnosis, often through imaging and clinical evaluation, is therefore essential to determine the appropriate treatment course for each condition.

Current methods of treatment

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for endometriosis or adenomyosis, making the management of symptoms challenging. The best options available presently include anti-inflammatory drugs or hormonal therapy, such as contraception.

However, many women still struggle with pain management and don’t experience relief from these conditions until they go through menopause. This means sufferers could spend decades dealing with their illness.

Not only is diagnosis difficult, but women typically have to wait for an average of 8 years before receiving a confirmed diagnosis. A lack of awareness amongst doctors and in research has seen some women claim to have been medically gaslit, with symptoms disregarded as menstrual pain, IBS or cysts. 

Meanwhile, many sufferers are often unaware that medical cannabis could be another treatment plan. Releaf’s report on medical cannabis awareness reveals that only 1 in 12 people suffering severe menstrual cramps in the UK are aware that medical cannabis has been shown to have therapeutic value in this area. 

Medical cannabis has shown great potential in effectively managing chronic pain and inflammation, both of which are common symptoms of endometriosis and adenomyosis. Around the world, many women with these conditions have reported experiencing relief from pain and improved quality of life after receiving a medical cannabis prescription. 

It is always crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before using medical cannabis, as its effectiveness and safety can vary amongst individuals. Speaking to a qualified healthcare professional specialising in Women’s Health can also help to distinguish between the different conditions, which is crucial for targeted treatment strategies.

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