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What is Endometriosis?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Endometriosis is a chronic condition that affects millions of women and girls throughout the world. It is a painful condition wherein the endometrium, the tissue that lines the uterus, attaches itself to areas outside the uterus creating lesions.

Lesions may form in many areas of the body, but some of the more common growths occur on the exterior of the uterus, as well as on the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Other areas include the supporting structures of the uterus, the pelvic cavity lining, the cervix, the vaginal cavity, and the bladder. While lesions can also affect the exterior folds of the vagina and the perineum -- the muscle and tissue dense area between the vagina and the rectum -- growths in these sites are less common.

Endometriosis causes moderate to severe pain, due to the fact that lesions are in essence, sites of internal bleeding. These areas react to the hormonal changes directly associated with a woman's monthly cycle.

In much the same way as the uterus lining breaks down each month, endometrial lesions also break down. The difference is, as the uterus sheds its lining, blood and tissue are allowed to be flushed from the body through the vagina. On the other hand, there is no outlet for tissue and blood shed by endometrial growths.

Not only do these lesions cause pain, but they can also cause cysts and scar tissue to develop, which may affect fertility.

Symptoms may include heavier and more painful periods, spotting between periods, and tenderness of the abdomen during ovulation. Many women also experience painful urination and bowel movements during menstruation, or pain during intercourse. Some suffer from an inability to fight off infection and others develop allergies. These discomforts are frequently accompanied by fatigue and irritability. The cause is unknown, but studies indicate that the disease may be genetic.

Treatment options for endometriosis are designed to meet the patient's specific needs. Options include pain relievers, both over-the-counter preparations and prescription medicines. Hormone therapy, usually in the form of a modified birth control pill regimen, is also frequently prescribed. Minor surgery in which layers of the lesions are removed may improve the condition. In some instances major surgery, including hysterectomy is necessary; hysterectomy, however, may not be able to eradicate endometriosis completely, since lesions can develop in other areas of the body.

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Discussion Comments
By anon154165 — On Feb 19, 2011

I have been to my ob/gyn doctor a couple of times and was told everything is fine. I continue to have irregular periods for over a year and by the way I've had three c-sections and want to still have at least one more baby. I notice no signs of clear mucus to detect of ovulation only thick white discharge at times and no matter how many times i go to the doctor and she check threw the microscope and detects nothing!

I'm in my early 30's and I feel I'm at a dead end and don't know what to do! I had no diseases in my past at all. I've also been off the depo for a little over two years. Is there any advice you can give me?

By anon11154 — On Apr 09, 2008

I just learned yesterday that I might have endometriosis, we are waiting for CA-125. My doctor told me to wait 1 month and if it is still there, I should have a surgery. Mine is kind of bigger cyst, I am 30. We are not thinking about a baby immediately but in the future, Can I get pregnant? Is there anything I can do in this month to get the cyst disappear? Can I get pregnant with one ovary if they take one of them? Thanks.

By anon5353 — On Nov 21, 2007

I believe the way your ObyGyn can test for Endometriosis is to have a closer look at your removed ovary tissues. If I were you, I would ask the doc to do that. You can also ask for a copy of the operative report to see what it says about the ovarian tissue.

Another test for Endometriosis would be an elevated CA125 serum blood test. You can ask your primary care doc to do that test.

Some ObyGyn docs are not experienced enough to recognize Endometriosis.

By cn111156 — On Jul 24, 2007

I recently had Leparscoptic surgery with removal of both ovaries. My OBGYN told me that he could not get all of the right ovary, due to the fact that there was severe scar tissue in my stomach. I have never had any type of surgery before, and I am concerned that this is a sure sign of Endometris. Other than asking for a second opinion, why will my OBGYN NOT test for this disease, since both my sisters have been diagnosed this in the past?

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