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: Symptoms, Signs, Treatment

Endometriosis: Symptoms, Signs, Treatment

What causes endometriosis?

The cause of endometriosis is unknown. One theory is that the endometrial tissue is deposited in unusual locations by the retrograde flow of menstrual debris through the Fallopian tubes into the pelvic and abdominal cavities.  The cause of this retrograde menstruation is not clearly understood.  It is clear that retrograde menstruation is not the only cause of endometriosis, as many women who have retrograde menstruation do not develop the condition.

Another possibility is that areas lining the pelvic organs possess primitive cells that are able to develop into other forms of tissue, such as endometrium. (This process is termed coelomic metaplasia.)

It is also likely the direct transfer of endometrial tissues at the time of surgery may be responsible for the endometriosis implants occasionally found in surgical scars (for example, episiotomy or Cesarean section scars). Transfer of endometrial cells via the bloodstream or lymphatic system is the most plausible explanation for the rare cases of endometriosis that are found in the brain and other organs remote from the pelvis.

Finally, there is evidence that some women with endometriosis have an altered immune response in women with endometriosis, which may affect the body's natural ability to recognize ectopic endometrial tissue.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/26/2016

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