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Endometriosis (EN-doh-me-tree-OH-sis) is a disease in which endometrial tissue, normally found only in the uterus, is present in other locations in the body.
The endometrium is the lining of the uterus, which is shed during menstruation. When it grows outside the uterus, it can cause patches or cysts (lesions) to form. The most common locations of these lesions are the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, intestines, rectum, and pelvic cavity. In rare cases, lesions may be found in other areas of the body. Endometriosis occurs most often in women ages 25 to 45 who have never been pregnant.
Just like the normal endometrium, the endometrial tissue outside the uterus also is affected by the hormones, and it attempts to shed in the same manner. Since the lesions caused by endometriosis are deep inside the body, they bleed into surrounding tissue. The body defends itself from this bleeding by “sealing off” the endometriosis site. This causes scar tissue or cysts to form.
The severity is often linked to where the lesions are and what organs they are affecting. Endometriosis may cause pain in the entire lower abdominal area or on 1 or both sides of the lower abdomen. It may even move to both thighs. It can occur during sex (intercourse) and be felt in the rectum when bearing down during a bowel movement.
About 30 percent of women who have never been pregnant have endometriosis, and about 5 percent of fertile women have endometriosis. The pregnancy rate among women with known endometriosis is less than the pregnancy rate in the general population.
During a laparoscopy, the doctor makes a small cut (incision) into the abdomen, just below the belly button (navel). A small telescope with a light on the end (laparoscope) is inserted through this small incision. The laparoscope allows the doctor to view the reproductive organs and any endometrial lesions that are present.
A second small incision may be made in the abdomen to remove tissue samples. These samples will be sent to a laboratory to confirm they are endometriosis.
Treatment of endometriosis depends on the location of lesions, severity of symptoms, age of the woman, and desire to preserve her ability to have children. Generally the treatment options include:
Decisions about treatment are made jointly by a woman and her doctor.
Your doctor can best answer your specific questions. He or she can also give you a detailed explanation of treatment options and guide you in your decisions.