What is Endometriosis?


Endometriosis is a problem many women have during their childbearing years. It means that a type of tissue that lines your uterus is also growing outside your uterus. This does not always cause symptoms. And it usually isn't dangerous. But it can cause pain and other problems.

The clumps of tissue that grow outside your uterus are called implants. They usually grow on the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the outer wall of the uterus, the intestines, or other organs in the belly. In rare cases they spread to areas beyond the belly.

How does endometriosis cause problems?


Your uterus is lined with a type of tissue called endometrium. Each month, your body releases hormones that cause the endometrium to thicken and get ready for an egg. If you get pregnant, the fertilized egg attaches to the endometrium and starts to grow. If you do not get pregnant, the endometrium breaks down, and your body sheds it as blood. This is known as your menstrual period.

When you have endometriosis, the implants of tissue outside your uterus act just like the tissue lining your uterus. During your menstrual cycle, they get thicker, then break down and bleed. But the implants are outside your uterus, so the blood cannot flow out of your body. The implants can get irritated and painful. Sometimes they form scar tissue or fluid-filled sacs (cysts). Scar tissue may make it hard to get pregnant.

With each menstrual cycle, the implants go through the same growing, breaking down, and bleeding that the uterine lining (endometrium) goes through. This is why endometriosis pain may start as mild discomfort a few days before the menstrual period and then usually is gone by the time the period ends. But if an implant grows in a sensitive area, it can cause constant pain or pain during certain activities, such as sex, exercise or bowel movements.

Some women have no symptoms or problems. Others have mild to severe symptoms or infertility. There is no way to predict whether endometriosis will get worse, will improve, or will stay the same until menopause.

Infertility problems


Between 20% and 40% of women who are infertile have endometriosis (some have more than one possible cause of infertility. Experts don't fully understand how endometriosis causes infertility. It could be that:
Scar tissue adhesions may form at the sites of implants and change the shape or function of the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or uterus.

The endometrial implants may change the chemical and hormonal makeup in the fluid that surrounds the organs in the abdominal cavity (peritoneal fluid). This may change the menstrual cycle or prevent a pregnancy.

Ovary problems


A common complication of endometriosis is the development of a cyst on an ovary. This blood-filled growth is called an ovarian endometrioma or an endometrial cyst. Endometriomas can be as small as 1 mm or more than 8 cm across. The symptoms of an ovarian cyst may be the same as those of endometriosis.
Also, ovarian cancer is slightly higher in women who have endometriosis. This type of ovarian cancer is most commonly seen in women older than 60.
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