ACROSS WEST MICHIGAN--It's a disease affecting nearly 200 million women worldwide.
It's called Endometriosis and happens when bits of tissue from inside a woman's uterus spread to the outside, causing pain and even infertility.
According to doctors, it's more common than you'd think; affecting one in every 10 women during their reproductive years.
Dr. Bitner, M.D., the director of Spectrum's Health Midlife and Menopause Health Services program, describes the disease as an analogy; thinking of a uterus as a lawn.
When you mow your grass, seeds are picked up, spit out, eventually planting themselves to grow. But just like some seeds grow in places they shouldn't, tissue can do the same.
"Endometriosis is certainly on our mind when we see a woman with pain," said Bitner.
Bitner is one of many OBGYN's seeing patients with the disease. Now, she's hoping to spread the word that her patients aren't alone.
"For women who suffer with this, there is no need to suffer," she said.
Symptoms of the disease include: painful periods, pain during intercourse and infertility.
It's caused from misplaced tissue, acting like a nasty weed that tampers your lawn.
"We want the tissue to be inside the uterus where it belongs.. it's when it spreads and goes outside your uterus it causes problems," she said. "Some of that tissue will go out the tubes into the surrounding pelvis."
That tissue, thickens, breaks down and bleeds out just as it would inside the uterus during a menstrual cycle, but with Endometriosis, the tissue becomes trapped.
Doctors say that's what creates pain during periods and intercourse.
"Think of your worst period cramps happening before your period starts and lasting after your periods done," Bitner said. "Endometriosis makes these inflammatory factors and when it's outside the uterus it causes blood vessel growth, so the vessels grow to feed it, also creates pain, it's also very sticky. It can cause the bladder to stick to the uterus."
Dr. Bitner advises symptoms in women may vary. Adding, not all women get the disease because some immune systems recognize the tissue outside the uterus as foreign.
She also suggested getting surgery to cure Endometriosis. Although she says it's worth it in the end.
"I think a lot of women we're programmed to live with stuff. We don't want to be complainers we want to solider through, but it can definitely be at least helped if not cured," she said.
Bitner adds pregnancy and birth control can work to suppress symptoms as well.
"When the women is on the birth control pill [it] contains estrogen, [the] fertilizer, progesterone, [the] weed killer...but togetherit keeps the hormones evened out but in some women it can help suppress and help with the pain," she said.
We're told the disease is most commonly found in women in their 20's through 40's, but can affect teens.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, doctors are urging you to seek help.