Endometriosis is not fatal, but it can cause severe symptoms and affect a person’s quality of life. In some cases, endometriosis may cause severe complications that require immediate medical treatment.
This article discusses endometriosis, its complications, how to manage it, and more.
No, you cannot die from endometriosis. However, it can cause serious complications and mental health issues that may be dangerous without treatment.
Endometriosis can cause severe inflammation, bleeding, and scar tissue within the body, which can lead to a range of complications if it starts affecting surrounding organs.
Endometriosis can cause chronic pain that can impair a person’s sleep, social life, work life, relationships, and more.
Because of this, endometriosis can also affect a person’s quality of life. It may increase the risk of mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
Treatments may help reduce pain and severity of symptoms and help slow or prevent disease progression, which may lessen the risk of serious complications.
This section explains the possible risks and complications of endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a risk factor for ectopic pregnancy.
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg grows outside of the uterus, most commonly in a fallopian tube.
As the pregnancy develops, it can cause the fallopian tube to rupture and bleed. Major internal bleeding can be life threatening and needs immediate medical attention.
Small bowel obstruction
Endometriosis that affects the small bowel is
A small bowel obstruction is a partial or total blockage of the small intestine.
Endometrial-like tissue that grows within the intestines may cause endometriosis adhesions, or scar tissue that can stick organs together. The scarring and inflammation of endometriosis may cause a bowel obstruction.
Small bowel obstruction can be life threatening without treatment, but prompt treatment can promote a good outcome.
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A 2019 study found an increased risk of ovarian cancer, but no increased risk of cervical cancer or endometrial cancer, in people with endometriosis.
Researchers recommended regular monitoring for cancerous changes in people with endometriosis.
A person with endometriosis may require surgery to diagnose or treat the condition.
Surgery for endometriosis may come with risks and potential complications, including:
- the need for repeat surgery, which is
more likelyin people with severe endometriosis
- damage to surrounding tissues and organs
Sometimes, surgery complications can be life threatening.
The risk of complications
Risk factors for surgical complications include:
- surgery to remove adhesions from the uterus
- surgery to remove a blockage from a ureter
- multiple procedures
A 2021 meta-analysis found that endometriosis may have a detrimental effect on mental health. In particular, researchers linked the condition to depression and anxiety.
According to another 2021 study, endometriosis can increase the risk of:
- negative impacts on work life
- decreased quality of life
- sexual and relationship problems
- mental health issues, including an increased risk of depression and anxiety
- reduced sleep quality
- higher levels of perceived stress
- reduced activity levels
- impaired sexual activity
- negative effect on intimate and social relationships
- social isolation and loneliness
Researchers recommend an endometriosis treatment plan includes psychological, economic, and workplace support alongside medical treatment.
Support is available for people living with endometriosis. Learn more here:
Treatment for endometriosis aims to manage the condition and relieve symptoms. It may include:
- pain relief medications
- hormonal medications
- surgery to remove endometrial-like growths
Endometriosis is not a fatal condition.
However, experts do associate it with certain conditions and complications that may be life threatening. These include ectopic pregnancy, mental health concerns, and small bowel obstruction.
Undergoing surgery for endometriosis may also increase a person’s risk of experiencing dangerous complications.
Although there is no cure for endometriosis, treatments may help manage symptoms and relieve pain.
Additionally, it is still possible for people with endometriosis to have a successful pregnancy if they wish to get pregnant.
The Endometriosis Association recommends the following tips for people with the condition:
- Try to keep a balanced outlook on the condition.
- Work to accept the condition by acknowledging all feelings and experiences with endometriosis, such as frustration and pain.
- Focus on staying healthy by getting regular exercise, eating a nutritious diet, and practicing relaxation techniques.
- Find healthy ways to release tension.
- Find social support through friends, family, or endometriosis support groups.
- Take a proactive approach to learning about endometriosis and ways to manage it.
Additionally, a person can contact the following organizations for support and information:
If people are experiencing symptoms of endometriosis, talking with a doctor can provide a diagnosis and treatment options.
People need to seek medical help immediately if they have:
- sudden, severe abdominal pain
- shoulder pain
- dizziness, or feel faint or weak
- nausea and vomiting
- difficulty having bowel movements
People can also contact a healthcare professional if they are struggling to cope with the condition and experience mental health challenges.
This section answers some frequently asked questions about endometriosis and its complications.
Can you die from untreated endometriosis?
Endometriosis itself is not a fatal condition. However, experts associate endometriosis with some potentially life threatening conditions, such as ectopic pregnancy and depression.
Without treatment, endometriosis may worsen and can cause potentially life threatening complications.
Early diagnosis and treatment may help slow or prevent disease progression and reduce symptom severity.
What organs can endometriosis affect?
Endometriosis commonly affects the reproductive organs, including those in the pelvic and abdominal areas.
These may include:
- the ovaries
- the fallopian tubes
- the outer surface of the uterus
- ligaments around the uterus
- the lining of the pelvic cavity
- in between the uterus and rectum or bladder
In rare cases, endometriosis may affect the:
Endometriosis is not fatal, but it may lead to complications that can be life threatening without treatment.
Endometriosis can also negatively affect a person’s quality of life and may increase the risk of mental health conditions.
Treatment can help manage symptoms and relieve pain. Treatment may also help prevent the disease from progressing further and causing complications.