Endometriosis is a condition where endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus. Endometriosis is a medical condition affecting a woman's uterus and fallopian tubes and sometimes other organs or body parts. Endometriosis is when the endometrium -the kind of tissue that normally lines the uterus grows somewhere else. It can grow on the fallopian tubes, the ovaries, behind the uterus or on the bowels or bladder. Rarely, it grows in other parts of the body.
This "misplaced" tissue can cause pain, infertility and very heavy periods. The pain is usually in the abdomen, lower back or pelvic areas. Some women have no symptoms at all. Having trouble getting pregnant may be the first sign. Women with endometriosis have often difficulties getting pregnant because the endometriosis grows on the fallopian tubes and blocks the passsage of the egg, the sperms, or the fertilized egg.
Endometriosis can present as different symptoms and often times can be diagnosed by a family practitioner, general internist and more accurately by a gynecologist.
The word endometriosis is derived from greek, meaning "inside the womb." The womb is the part of the female anatomy that contains the fertilized egg or the embryo. The embryo eventually becomes the baby. Normally the womb or uterus is made of cells that are called "endometrial cells." These cells line the inside of the womb and serves as a cellular layer to prevent the uterus from sticking to itself. It also allows the egg to properly implant into the womb.
The cause of endometriosis is not known. Pain medicines and hormones often help. Severe cases may need surgery. There are also treatments to improve fertility in women with endometriosis. In order to come to a diagnosis of endometriosis it is important to be evaluated by a gynecologist to discuss diagnostic tests and further management.
The endometrial tissue usually remains within the pelvis such as on the outer surface of the uterus, the fallopian tubes, on pelvic ligaments, on the ovaries, between the vagina and rectum, on the bladder, or on old abdominal-surgery scars.
The endometrial tissue outside the uterus builds up each month in response to the normal female hormonal cycle, just like the tissue inside the uterus, and at the end of the cycle it sheds, causing bleeding. But the endometrial tissue outside the uterus has no route for elimination, so the shedding can cause internal bleeding, inflammation, and subsequent scar-tissue formation.
Growths can rupture and spread to new sites. A build-up of scar tissue can cause adhesions and obstructions. It can interfere with the normal function of the fallopian tubes and thus prevent fertilization by either preventing the egg from meeting the sperm or preventing the fertilized egg from moving down the fallopian tubes.