Endometriosis is a chronic disease that affects millions of women each year. It is characterized by the growth of tissue like that which lines the uterus in various other parts of the body. It can cause pain and discomfort, which is largely due to the presence of tissue that is normally only in the uterus growing in an abnormal locations throughout the body. These occurrences of extraneous tissue growth occur most commonly on the outside of the fallopian tubes and ovaries, on the outer surface of the uterus and intestines as well as inside the fallopian tubes.
Slightly less frequently, tissue growth can occur on the surface of the pelvic cavity. It can also be found in the area between the vagina and the rectum, along the outer surface of the uterus or in the lining of the pelvic cavity. Endometrial tissue can also grow on the bladder, bowels, cervix and vulva. It may be found in the lungs, upper arms and thighs, although tissue growth in these areas is more rare. Tissue can also grow on the liver and in surgery scars. In extremely rare cases, this tissue can even be found in the brain.
The rogue tissue can develop into growths or lesions in the body which respond to the body chemistry of the menstrual cycle in the same way that the uterine lining tissue does. That is, every month the tissue accumulates, breaks down and then sheds. But while menstrual blood flows out from the uterus and out the body through the vagina, blood and tissue from endometrial growths is trapped in the body. The result can be internal bleeding and inflammation which can then cause pain, scar tissue, adhesions, bowel issues and infertility.
Endometriosis is fairly common in women, although it may or may not produce pronounced symptoms. However, it can lead to painful menstruation. Endometriosis occurs most often during the reproductive years, with the average age of diagnosis between 25 and 30. It can be suspected during a physical examination, but is usually confirmed by laparoscopic surgery. Treatments include pain medication, hormone therapy and surgery.