Endometriosis is a chronic disease that occurs primarily in a woman's reproductive system. Ordinarily, the uterus is lined with a tissue called the endometrium. But when this tissue grows outside of the uterus and on the fallopian tubes, the ovaries or elsewhere, it is known as endometriosis.
The primary symptoms of endometriosis are various types of pain in the abdomen, in the intestines, during intercourse or during menstruation. Digestive problems, such as diarrhea, constipation, nausea and painful bowel movements, also commonly occur. Endometriosis can also cause bleeding between periods and can even lead to infertility over time. The growths of endometrium primarily occur in the reproductive system, though in rare instances they can affect other parts of the body.
Though doctors aren’t sure why some women get endometriosis and others don’t, there are several theories about the condition. There may be a genetic component to the disease, and some evidence indicates that exposure to certain environmental toxins might increase a woman's risk. Other theories include problems with the immune system or a hormonal imbalance leading to endometriosis.
Endometriosis cannot be cured, but women who have it have several options for managing the disease. Pain medications that range from over-the-counter options to prescription drugs are the first line of defense for women with mild to moderate symptoms. Hormonal treatments such as birth control pills can also help manage endometriosis symptoms, though these are not an option for women who want to become pregnant.
Surgery is the final line of treatment for women with more severe endometriosis. These procedures can range from a laparoscopy to remove excess tissue to a total hysterectomy, which involves removal of the uterus and sometimes the ovaries as well.
SOURCES: U.S. Office on Women's Health; Endometriosis Association
Hormonal changes may play a role, researchers say
Women with endometriosis may be a higher risk for heart disease, new study finds.
Gynecological condition may boost heart risk 60 percent; even more in young women, research suggests
Study looked at 'organochlorine' exposure in women with condition that affects uterine lining
Irregular menstruation is a typical warning sign
But findings are preliminary, and sunscreen has major benefits in preventing skin cancer
Increased screening advised for women with the uterine disorder, study says
Large Danish study suggests possibility of connection between the illnesses in women
Extra pounds put on after menopause could up the odds, research suggests
Some common symptoms of the gynecological disorder
When uterine tissue grows outside the womb
Here are factors that may increase your risk
But trans fats could increase it, researchers say
For medium- to high-risk women, more surgery is better, study shows
Where it appears most often
Nerve disruption no better than laparoscopic surgery, study finds
Less invasive test focuses on nerve fibers, researchers say
Scan can pinpoint cases that do and do not require surgery, researcher says
Marker indicates aggressiveness of the disease, study finds
Factors that can raise your chances of developing it
Some women can still conceive
A common health problem for women
One in 10 women suffer from the painful uterine condition, experts say
Condition affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age
Researchers can't explain connection, say further study needed
Fruits, vegetables seem to lower risk of painful condition, study suggests
Aromatase inhibitor, used against breast cancer, may help treat painful condition
Researchers note risk is small and involves relatively rare cancers
Lack of certain molecules in some women with endometriosis causes problems
Center offers free fact sheet and self-test as part of National Women's Health Week
But survey finds doctors, family tell women their suffering is normal
May explain why women with condition have trouble conceiving
Study finds women diagnosed late, and have other ailments
Won't increase risk, and may help prevent the disease, UK study says
Early diagnosis of endometriosis could help women combat fertility problems