What Is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a common and enigmatic disorder. The name comes from the word endometrium. Endometrium is the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus (or womb). It builds up and sheds each month during the menstrual cycle. In women with endometriosis, endometrium is found outside the uterus, in other areas of the body. It can be found on the ligaments that support the uterus and on nearby organs such as the ovaries, bowel, or bladder. It can sometimes be found in more distant organs, such as the lungs or navel. In these locations out of the uterus, the endometrial tissue develops into spots or patches that are usually referred to as endometriotic implants, nodules, or lesions. On the ovaries it may cause cysts, referred to as endometriomas. These may be smaller than a pea, or larger than a grapefruit. A woman may suddenly feel pain when a large endometrioma bleeds or bursts. The spilled fluid may cause further irritation and the development of scar tissue.

Women with endometriosis may have only a few isolated implants or the disease may be present throughout the pelvis. It can irritate surrounding tissues and produce web-like scar tissue known as adhesions. The scar tissue may bind together the uterus, tubes, ovaries and nearby intestines and in some cases cover them completely. Early implants look like spots or pimples sprinkled on the pelvic surfaces. The implants may remain unchanged, become scar tissue, or disappear over a period of months. In most women endometriosis grows slowly and it can remain stable for years. Endometriosis can grow into the walls of the intestine or into the tissue that separates the rectum from the vagina. Although it can invade the neighboring tissue, endometriosis is not a cancer.

Endometriosis can cause pain, infertility, and other problems. It was first described in 1869 and yet remains a poorly understood disease of the female reproductive system. It almost exclusively affects women in the reproductive years. Although many women with endometriosis have no symptoms, others suffer with painful periods, pain during intercourse, or continuous pain. These symptoms may occur alone or in combination, and in varying degrees of severity.

The Female Reproductive Organs

What Causes Endometriosis?

What are the Symptoms?

How is Endometriosis Diagnosed?

How is Endometriosis Treated?

Endometriosis is a baffling disease affecting millions of women throughout the world. For many, the condition goes unnoticed, but for others, it demands professional attention, especially when pain is incapacitating and alters a woman’s lifestyle.

If you are one of those women, we understand the suffering, confusion, and fear you may have due to being diagnosed as having endometriosis. At the University of Rochester Pelvic Pain and Vulvar Disease Center it is our desire to alleviate your pain as quickly as possible. It is important that together we thoroughly explore the implications of this diagnosis and any treatments that may be beneficial to you. We are dedicated to your health without reservation and will try always to understand and believe you, and will do everything possible to maintain your trust. Please feel free to discuss any areas you do not understand. Unless we have your confidence and trust, we will not be effective in helping you and treating your endometriosis.

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