The endometrium normally resides in the uterus, forming the uterine lining, and is expelled and rebuilt each month during menstruation. Endometriosis is a condition in which endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus. In women suffering endometriosis, displaced endometrial tissue is most commonly found on the ovaries, in the fallopian tubes, the outer wall of the uterus, the ligaments of the uterus or ovaries, in the bowel, the ureters or the bladder. However, endometriosis can occur anywhere in the body.
For women with endometriosis, the displaced endometrial tissue responds and performs in the same way as the endometrium forming the uterine lining. The displaced tissue builds up as the body moves towards ovulation and then breaks down and bleeds during menstruation. This bleeding can trigger inflammation and pain and over time can lead to scarring, known as adhesions. Endometriosis has a significant impact on fertility and is a causative factor in 35 – 50% of fertility issues in women.
The cause of endometriosis is largely unknown and symptoms can vary greatly. Most common symptoms of endometriosis include
• Severe period pain (or pain may last all month long)
• Lower abdominal pain or back pain
• Heavy bleeding and/or clotting
• Abnormally long or short cycles
• PMS (Pre-menstrual syndrome)
• PMT (Pre-menstrual tension)
• Painful intercourse
• Abdominal swelling
As these symptoms are somewhat vague and can occur without the presence of endometriosis, some women are not aware they have endometriosis until it is discovered during unrelated surgery or when trying to fall pregnant. Therefore early diagnosis and prevention of endometriosis can be difficult.
Endometriosis does appear to have a genetic connection and is commonly seen in mothers, daughters and sisters. Endometriosis is also found to be associated with a relative estrogen to progesterone excess. Speak to your Health Care Professional if you are concerned about whether you may have Endometriosis.