Early Detection Matters! Recognising the Symptoms of PCOS and Endometriosis

Millions of individuals worldwide face the challenges of Endometriosis (Endo) and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). While these conditions are distinct, they often intersect, impacting reproductive health and overall well-being.

Early Detection Matters! Recognising the Symptoms of PCOS and Endometriosis
Photo by Jonathan Borba / Unsplash

Millions of individuals worldwide face the challenges of Endometriosis (Endo) and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). While these conditions are distinct, they often intersect, impacting reproductive health and overall well-being.

It's crucial for those experiencing symptoms to seek medical advice for proper diagnosis and management. 

Understanding both the similarities and differences between Endo and PCOS can empower individuals to make informed decisions about their health.

Both conditions share four key symptoms despite their different root causes:

  1. Irregular Menstrual Periods: Endo can cause heavy, painful periods, while PCOS can lead to irregular or absent periods.
  2. Difficulty Getting Pregnant: Endo can lead to scarring and inflammation in the reproductive organs, affecting fertility. PCOS can cause irregular ovulation or no ovulation at all, making it difficult to conceive.
  3. Pelvic Pain: Endo commonly presents with pelvic pain, especially during menstruation. PCOS may also cause pelvic discomfort or pain due to cysts on the ovaries.
  4. Hormonal Disturbances: Endo is influenced by oestrogen levels. PCOS is associated with higher levels of androgens (sometimes referred to as male hormones, but they are also present in females and are involved in female physiology as well) such as testosterone.

Understanding the specific symptoms and implications of each condition is vital.

Endometriosis: What is it?

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining inside the uterus (womb) grows in other areas of the body outside the uterus. 

It commonly affects the pelvic organs, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes, but can rarely also be found in other areas of the body.  

The tissue growing outside the uterus acts like the lining of the uterus. So, during each menstrual cycle, it breaks down and bleeds. But since it can't exit the body, it causes inflammation and scarring.

What symptoms of Endometriosis should I look out for?

Symptoms can vary greatly from one individual to another. But there are six important possible symptoms to be aware of: 

Pelvic Pain

Pelvic pain is the most common symptom reported in Endo. It is described as pain in the lower stomach or back, and it is usually worse during your period. 

Period Pain

This pain can start before your period and last several days. It can be difficult to manage with regular pain relief and impact your daily activities. 

Pain During Intercourse

Pain during or after sex is commonly reported with Endo.

Pain with Bowel Movements or Passing Urine

You’re most likely to experience this pain when going to the toilet during your menstrual periods.

Excessive Bleeding

You may experience heavy menstrual bleeding (also known as menorrhagia) or bleeding in between periods.


Endometriosis can impact your fertility, and for some individuals, endometriosis may be first diagnosed during the investigation or management of infertility.

Other Symptoms

You may experience other symptoms such as fatigue, diarrhoea, constipation, bloating and nausea. These symptoms are usually more common before or during your menstrual periods.

How can I get a diagnosis?

The diagnosis of Endo can be challenging as there is no specific non-invasive diagnostic test, and the symptoms can often mimic other common conditions. 

Individuals with Endo may experience all of these symptoms, some of these symptoms or no symptoms at all. If you think you might have endometriosis, it’s important that you speak to a healthcare professional. 

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): What is it?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormone condition that can impact females of reproductive age. PCOS can cause irregular menstrual periods due to excess hormones called androgens, and the ovaries may develop numerous small fluid-filled sacs (follicles). 

What symptoms of PCOS should I look out for?

Symptoms can vary greatly from one individual to another, but some of the common symptoms to look out for are: 

Irregular Periods

Irregular periods or experiencing no periods at all are commonly reported with PCOS. 

Weight Gain

Individuals with PCOS can experience difficulties with weight gain and can be overweight or obese. This can also exacerbate the condition, and many individuals have trouble maintaining a weight that is healthy for them.

Difficulty Getting Pregnant

With PCOS, you may experience difficulty getting pregnant due to irregular ovulation or no ovulation at all.

Excessive hair growth (also known as hirsutism)

People with PCOS may experience excessive hair growth in areas such as their faces, backs, buttocks, and chests.

Thinning Hair on Your Scalp

You may experience patches of hair loss or thinning hair on your scalp. 

Acne or Oily Skin

Due to the high levels of androgen hormones, PCOS can cause acne, which may be severe, difficult to treat and persist beyond your teenage years.

The symptoms of PCOS can vary from person to person. Some individuals have only a few or mild symptoms, while others can be affected more severely. If you suspect you have PCOS, it's important you speak to a healthcare professional.

How can I get a diagnosis of PCOS?

PCOS can be difficult to diagnose due to some of the symptoms described having a variety of possible causes. There is also not a single test to diagnose PCOS; rather, it is a combination of factors that make up the criteria. You need to meet at least two out of the following criteria:

  1. Irregular or absent periods 
  2. Signs of excess androgens such as unwanted hair growth (hirsutism) and/or elevated androgen levels on a blood test.
  3. Polycystic ovaries seen on an ultrasound scan.

What else should I know?

Both Endo and PCOS can significantly affect daily activities and quality of life due to symptoms such as pain, irregular bleeding, and emotional distress.

And both conditions can manifest with additional symptoms beyond those directly related to reproductive health, such as fatigue, digestive issues, and skin problems.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that both conditions can be challenging to diagnose due to overlapping symptoms and the need for comprehensive medical evaluation. 

You are not alone!

PCOS and Endo collectively impact a significant portion of reproductive-aged individuals worldwide, with estimates suggesting that PCOS affects 8–13% and Endo affects approximately 10% of this demographic. 

However, these figures may underestimate the true prevalence due to under-diagnosis, which is particularly pronounced in PCOS cases, with up to 70% of affected individuals remaining undiagnosed. 

Despite the challenges posed by these conditions, it's important to remember that you're not alone. With a multitude of support resources available, managing symptoms and improving daily life is achievable. Don't hesitate to seek assistance – you've got a supportive community behind you!


Endometriosis UK. (n.d.). What is endometriosis? Endometriosis UK. https://www.endometriosis-uk.org/what-endometriosis

National Health Service. (2022, September). Endometriosis. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/endometriosis/

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. (2023, September). Endometriosis. RCOG. https://www.rcog.org.uk/for-the-public/browse-our-patient-information/endometriosis/

National Health Service. (2022, October). Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos/

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. (2015, June). Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): What it means for your long-term health. RCOG. https://www.rcog.org.uk/for-the-public/browse-our-patient-information/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos-what-it-means-for-your-long-term-health/

World Health Organization. (n.d.). Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). WHO. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/polycystic-ovary-syndrome

World Health Organization. (n.d.). Endometriosis. WHO. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/endometriosis