What to know about endometriosis

Endometriosis is a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus.

Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the peritoneum (the tissue lining your pelvis).

Rarely, endometrial tissue may spread beyond pelvic organs.

Endometriosis can cause pain — sometimes severe — especially during menstrual periods.

Fertility problems also may develop.

With endometriosis, displaced endometrial tissue continues to act as it normally would — it thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. Because this displaced tissue has no way to exit your body, it becomes trapped. When endometriosis involves the ovaries, cysts called endometriomas may form. Surrounding tissue can become irritated, eventually developing scar tissue and adhesions which can cause pelvic tissues and organs to stick to each other.

Although there is no real cure, effective treatments are available.

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Fast facts on endometriosis

Here are some key points about endometriosis. More information is in the main article.

  • Endometriosis affects between 6 and 10 percent of women of reproductive age worldwide.
  • The condition appears to be present in a developing fetus, but estrogen levels during puberty are thought to trigger the symptoms.
  • Symptoms are generally present during the reproductive years.
  • Endometriosis is diagnosed surgically, usually via laparoscopy
  • Most women go undiagnosed, and in the U.S. it can take around 10 years to receive a diagnosis.
  • Allergies, asthma, chemical sensitivities, autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer are linked to women and families with endometriosis.

What is endometriosis?

Endometrial tissue consists of glands, blood cells, and connective tissue. It normally grows in the uterus, to prepare the lining of the womb for ovulation.

Endometriosis is when cells from the lining of the uterus grow and implant outside of the uterus. This can occur in many different locations, but most commonly is found near the fallopian tubes, ovaries, or in the pelvis.

1

Normally, this tissue is expelled during menstruation, but displaced tissue cannot do this.

2

This leads to physical symptoms, such as pain. As the lesions grow larger, they can affect bodily functions. For example, the fallopian tubes may be blocked.

3

Pain and other symptoms can affect many different areas of life. Chronic symptoms can lead to inability to work, rising medical care costs, and difficulty maintaining relationships.

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