Endometriosis is still a fairly “unknown” illness, despite the fact that it is one of the most common gynecological problems. It often takes a long time before it is diagnosed. Some women who have endometriosis experience severe pain which affects their quality of life, and sometimes even their fertility. Every month, a woman's ovaries produce hormones that tell the cells lining the uterus to swell and get thicker. The body removes these extra cells from the uterine lining (endometrium) when you get your period. If these cells (called endometrial cells) implant and grow outside the uterus, endometriosis results. The growths are called endometrial tissue implants. Women with endometriosis commonly have tissue implants on the ovaries, bowel, rectum, bladder, and on the lining of the pelvic area. They can occur in other areas of the body, as well. Unlike the endometrial cells found in the uterus, the tissue implants outside the uterus stay in place when you get your period. They may bleed a little bit. They continue to grow when you get your next period. This ongoing process leads to pain and other symptoms of endometriosis.
The cause of endometriosis is unknown. We do know that endometriosis is stimulated by hormones and researchers think the immune system may be different in women with endometriosis.
Endometriosis is common. Sometimes, it may run in the family. A woman who has a mother or sister with endometriosis is much more likely to develop endometriosis than other women. Although endometriosis is typically diagnosed between ages 25 - 35, the condition probably begins about the time that regular menstruation begins.
Page Updated November 29, 2012.