What’s the difference between endometriosis and conditions that cause similar symptoms?

Endometriosis affects one in ten women. Endometriosis can cause symptoms including pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding, and reduced fertility. Some women also experience bladder and bowel symptoms (such as constipation, bloating or diarrhoea and pain when using your bowel or bladder.

One of the difficulties with diagnosing endometriosis is that these symptoms can also be caused by a range of other conditions, leaving many women wondering about their differences.

Here, our Gold Coast Private Hospital team of endometriosis specialists in Queensland team discuss some conditions that cause endometriosis-like symptoms, including adenomyosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, fibroids and more.

You can learn more about endometriosis, including its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options, by clicking the button below.

Learn more about endometriosis


Adenomyosis is a condition affecting the uterus (womb) where cells like those of its inside lining (endometrium) are also present within its muscle wall. It is different to endometriosis, in which cell- like those of the lining of the uterus are found outside the uterus, such as on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, or the tissue that lines the pelvis (called the peritoneum).

The exact cause of adenomyosis isn’t fully understood, although it is thought the cells might enter the muscle wall of the uterus early in foetal development, during surgery, or after the birth of a baby.

As with endometriosis, these cells respond to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, which may lead to symptoms during your childbearing years. Many women have no symptoms, while others may experience symptoms severe enough to affect their ability to participate in daily life.

Women with adenomyosis often also have endometriosis. Like endometriosis, adenomyosis can be difficult to diagnose. There is no single test that can accurately confirm whether you have the condition.


Fibroids (also known as uterine fibromyomas, leiomyomas or myomas) are non-cancerous growths that can develop in different layers of the uterus. Approximately seven in 10 women over the age of 50 will have fibroids. However, only around 20 to 30 percent will experience any symptoms from them.

Fibroids can vary significantly in size – from that of a pea to that of a rock melon or bigger.

The reason why fibroids develop isn’t fully understood, but the hormones oestrogen and progesterone are known to play important roles.

Tests used to diagnose fibroids include transvaginal ultrasound (where an ultrasound probe is gently placed inside the vagina) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a complex hormonal disorder affecting 8 to 13 per cent of women of reproductive age. Like endometriosis, it can lead to period problems and difficulties falling pregnant. However, PCOS also has symptoms that differ from those of endometriosis, including acne, excess hair growth and excess weight.

PCOS is caused by the problem with the hormones and endometriosis is caused by anormal cell growth outside the uterus.

PCOS is associated with excess male-like hormones (known as androgens. The cause of PCOS isn’t fully understood, but genetics, hormones and lifestyle all play roles.

Women with PCOS are more likely to experience long-term health issues such as type 2 diabetes, mood changes and obesity. Fortunately, many of these can be managed with a healthy lifestyle and medication.

Doctors diagnose PCOS through a medical history, examination, blood tests and sometimes an ultrasound.

Ovarian cysts

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs in the ovary and are usually non-cancerous. There are several types of ovarian cysts, with the most common being:

Follicle cysts

These occur when a sac (or follicle) on your ovary doesn’t break open and release an egg as it should during your menstrual cycle. Instead, it keeps growing and forms a cyst. Follicle cysts may not cause any symptoms and typically go away in one to three months.

Corpus luteum cysts

These can develop if the sac doesn’t shrink after releasing the egg but re-seals itself, allowing fluid to build up inside and form a cyst.

These usually go away after a few weeks. However, they can grow quite large (up to 10cm) and sometimes bleed or twist the ovary, leading to pain.

Women with endometriosis may also develop endometriomas (chocolate cysts), which are pockets of endometriosis growing in the ovaries.

To diagnose ovarian cysts, your doctor will take your medical history and conduct a physical examination. They might also suggest blood tests and imaging, such as an ultrasound.

Irritable bowel syndrome

Although it affects the bowel rather than the reproductive organs, the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) sometimes mimic those of endometriosis. For example, people with both conditions can experience abdominal pain and disruption of bowel habits, including diarrhoea or constipation.

Like endometriosis, IBS is common, affecting approximately three in every ten people. It is possible to have both conditions. Women are more likely to be affected than men. Its cause isn’t fully understood.

Unlike endometriosis, however, IBS symptoms are often triggered by eating certain foods. Other triggers include stress, some medications, and infection.

IBS symptoms can also indicate a more serious bowel conditions, so your doctor will rule these out before diagnosing you with IBS.

Other conditions

Other conditions can also cause symptoms like those of endometriosis. You may be referred to a gynaecologist to confirm your diagnosis and decide on appropriate treatment.

We believe that women with endometriosis have specific needs and deserve specialist care and support throughout diagnosis, treatment and ongoing management.

The highly skilled and experienced team of gynaecologists at Gold Coast Private Hospital in Queensland will conduct a thorough assessment and provide specialist advice on the best way forward. They will talk you through the range of treatment options most suitable to your condition and personal circumstances.

We're the Gold Coast's first Centre of Excellence in Multidisciplinary Endometriosis Care. This means we work with world-leading endometriosis surgeons who provide high quality care in processes and outcomes, from diagnosis to the crucial post-operative care stage of treatment.

With facilities like state-of-the-art operating theatres (including robots), onsite imaging and private dining, you can rest assured that your journey with us will reflect the standards you expect from private care.

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We're a Centre of Excellence for Endometriosis.

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A/Prof Donald Angstetra
Obstetrician & Gynaecologist
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Dr Tina Fleming
Obstetrician & Gynaecologist
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Dr Tania Widmer
Obstetrician & Gynaecologist
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Dr Erlich Sem
Obstetrician & Gynaecologist
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