This page contains basic information about endometriosis and explains the condition in a simple way. This site should only be used to gather information and never as a diagnostic or treatment tool.
It is advisable that you refresh your memory about the endomtrium and menstruation at the female organs and normal menstruation. It is important to understand the endometrium and normal menstruation to be able to understand endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a common disease , but unfortunately one of the most difficult conditions to explain to lay persons. On this page this disease will be explained in a simple manner. Please refer to the pages where the female organs (Click here) and the normal menstruation(Click here) are discussed.
The name endometriosis is derived from the term endometrium. The endometrium is the lining covering the cavity inside the womb. Refer to the page The Female Organs. The changes occurring in the endometrium during the menstrual cycle is responsible for menstruation.
Endometriosis develops when tissue resembling the endometrium starts growing outside the womb. The most common symptoms are period pains, tummy pain, painful sexual intercourse and infertility.
There are different theories about the causes of endometriosis , but to simplify the discussion we will concentrate on retrograde menstruation as a possible cause. ( it refers to backward menstruation through the fallopian tubes into the peritoneal cavity).
The womb is a hollow organ with three openings into its cavity. The cervix (mouth) at the bottom opens into the vagina and two openings ( one on each side ) at the upper end connects to the fallopian tubes.
During menstruation the thick premenstrual endometrium is discarded and breaks into pieces. The pieces are discarded with the menstrual fluid into the vagina. Menstrual blood however also escapes trough the upper openings of the womb into the fallopian tubes. The outer opening of the tubes open directly in the peritoneal cavity. (Click here for more information about the peritoneal cavity).
The menstrual fluid consists of blood, endometrial epithelium, endometrial glands, pieces of blood vessels and connective tissue. All these tissue parts are pieces of the discarded endometrium. These pieces find there way into the peritoneal cavity. In some persons these pieces attach themselves to the peritoneum ( the layer covering the peritoneal cavity) and start growing. This will only happen in some individuals and the reasons why are still obscure. The endometrium is now present and growing in a foreign site and is now known as endometriosis.
The diagnosis depends on suspicion ( symptoms of lower tummy pain, painful sexual intercourse, period pains and infertility) and is confirmed with a laparoscopy. There are different laparoscopic appearances but that is beyond the scope this site. It is sufficient to say that most lesions will be recognized by an experienced gynecologist.
Treatment should be discussed and conducted in consultation with a gynecologist. The options available are surgical destruction of the lesions, medical treatment or both. The medical treatment consists of drugs that suppress the endometrium and keep it thin (atrophic) . These drugs usually suppress the ovaries and prevents the release of estrogen. It is important to remember that prolonged medical treatment might have an effect on bone density. The best way to describe it is to imagine the body in a state of artificial menopause during the treatment. The lesions are also suppressed and this allows the body to heal them.