• Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Endometriosis and Infertility

Endometriosis can be associated with severe pain and fertility problems. About 30% to 40% of women with endometriosis have some trouble conceiving. The reason for this is not well understood, and scarring of the reproductive tract, or hormonal factors may be involved. Over time endometrial implants may grow, or cysts may result because of endometriosis, which also may cause fertility problems.

Quick GuideEndometriosis Symptoms, Stages, Treatment

Endometriosis Symptoms, Stages, Treatment

Endometriosis definition and facts

  • Endometriosis is the abnormal growth of cells (endometrial cells) similar to those that form the inside of the uterus, but in a location outside of the uterus. Endometriosis is most commonly found on other organs of the pelvis.
  • The exact cause of endometriosis has not been identified.
  • Endometriosis is more common in women who are experiencing infertility than in fertile women, but the condition does not necessarily cause infertility.
  • Most women with endometriosis have no symptoms. However, when women do experience signs and symptoms of endometriosis they may include:
  • Pelvic pain during menstruation or ovulation can be a symptom of endometriosis, but may also occur in normal women.
  • Endometriosis can be suspected based on the woman's pattern of symptoms, and sometimes during a physical examination, but the definite diagnosis is usually confirmed by surgery, most commonly by laparoscopy.
  • Treatment of endometriosis includes medication and surgery for both pain relief and treatment of infertility if pregnancy is desired.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is the abnormal growth of endometrial tissue similar to that which lines the interior of the uterus, but in a location outside of the uterus. Endometrial tissue is shed each month during menstruation. Areas of endometrial tissue found in ectopic locations are called endometrial implants. These lesions are most commonly found on the ovaries, the Fallopian tubes, the surface of the uterus, the bowel, and on the membrane lining of the pelvic cavity (i.e. the peritoneum). They are less commonly found to involve the vagina, cervix, and bladder. Rarely, endometriosis can occur outside the pelvis. Endometriosis has been reported in the liver, brain, lung, and old surgical scars. Endometrial implants, while they may become problematic, are usually benign (i.e. non-cancerous).

What are the stages of endometriosis?

Endometriosis is classified into one of four stages (I-minimal, II-mild, III-moderate, and IV-severe) based upon the exact location, extent, and depth of the endometriosis implants as well as the presence and severity of scar tissue and the presence and size of endometrial implants in the ovaries. Most cases of endometriosis are classified as minimal or mild, which means there are superficial implants and mild scarring. Moderate and severe endometriosis typically result in cysts and more severe scarring. The stage of endometriosis is not related to the degree of symptoms a woman experiences, but infertility is common with stage IV endometriosis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/7/2016

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