Endometriosis

  • 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.

Quick GuideEndometriosis Pictures Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Symptoms, Stages and Treatments

Endometriosis Pictures Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Symptoms, Stages and Treatments

Endometriosis 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 symptoms 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).

Who is affected by endometriosis?

Endometriosis affects women during their reproductive years. The exact prevalence of endometriosis is not known, since many women who are later identified as having the condition are asymptomatic. Endometriosis is estimated to affect over one million women (estimates range from 3% to 18% of women) in the United States. It is one of the leading causes of pelvic pain and it is responsible for many of the laparoscopic procedures and hysterectomies performed by gynecologists. Estimates suggest that 20% to 50% of women being treated for infertility have endometriosis, and up to 80% of women with chronic pelvic pain may be affected.

While most cases of endometriosis are diagnosed in women aged 25 to 35 years, endometriosis has been reported in girls as young as 11 years of age. Endometriosis is rare in postmenopausal women. Studies further suggest that endometriosis is most common in taller, thin women with a low body mass index (BMI). Delaying pregnancy until an older age, never giving birth, early onset of menses, and late menopause all have been shown to be risk factors for endometriosis. It also is likely that there are genetic factors which predispose a woman to developing endometriosis, since having a first-degree relative with the condition increases the chance that a woman will develop the condition.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/26/2016
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