Endometriosis is a condition where endometrial tissue (cells that normally grow only inside the uterus) grow in abnormal ways and in the wrong places. The abnormal growth may extend to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other nearby organs in the pelvic area, causing scaring and bleeding.
In rare cases, it may travel outside the pelvic region and appear in the digestive organs, bladder and other areas.
With endometriosis, the endometrial tissue that is outside the uterus also thickens, breaks down, and bleeds, except it can't be expelled vaginally like normal endometrial tissue. Instead, the endometrial tissue outside the uterus builds up over time and forms patches, scar tissue, cysts, and adhesions.
The most common symptom of endometriosis is pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis, or the lower back, mainly during menstrual periods. The amount of pain a woman feels does not depend on how much endometriosis she has. Some women have no pain, even though their disease affects large areas. Other women with endometriosis have severe pain even though they have only a few small growths.
Tissue and blood that is shed into the body can cause inflammation, scar tissue, and pain. As endometrial tissue grows, it can cover or grow into the ovaries and block the fallopian tubes. Trapped blood in the ovaries can form cysts, or closed sacs. It also can cause inflammation and cause the body to form scar tissue. This scar tissue may cause pelvic pain and make it hard for women to get pregnant.
Endometriosis is thought to be autoimmune in nature, since women with endometriosis have higher levels of antibodies that target their own ovaries and endometrial tissue. Recent research shows a link between other health problems in women with endometriosis and their families. Some of these include allergies, asthma, and chemical sensitivities.
More than five million women in the United States have endometriosis. It is one of the most common health problems for women. It can occur in any teen or woman who has menstrual periods, but it is most common in women in their 30s and 40s. There is no cure for endometriosis, but there are many treatments for the pain and infertility that it causes. Medications that are used to treat endometriosis include pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and hormonal medications, including birth control pills, Surgery can also be done to relieve pain and improve fertility.