Endometriosis is a reproductive disorder affecting women and is a common cause of pelvic pain. In this condition, the tissue that serves as the lining of the uterus, or the endometrium, implants itself outside of the womb. Most of the time, this wandering endometrial tissue is found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or in the pelvic region. Sometimes, it even spreads to the digestive tract.
The uterus prepares for a possible pregnancy each month. The lining of your womb thickens in response to hormones secreted during your cycle. If a cycle doesn't result in pregnancy, the level of these hormones is decreased, which in turn causes the denser lining of the uterus to be expelled. This shedding process manifests as the vaginal blood you know as your menstrual period.
In endometriosis, endometrial tissue mimics this process wherever it has located itself within your body. Increasing and decreasing levels of hormones direct the tissue to thicken, shed, and bleed no matter where it is located. Since there is no graceful place for this blood to exit the body, the blood remains in place, often causing irritation to surrounding tissue.
Scars and Adhesions
This type of irritation can lead to the development of cysts. The cysts can form scar tissue and something called adhesions—foreign tissue that wraps around and binds the organs together. The adhesions and scar tissue resulting from endometriosis can cause severe pain, which tends to worsen during menstruation, and are also a primary cause of female infertility.
The condition is progressive and women may not realize they have endometriosis at first. The disease may be discovered during the course of an operation for a different condition. The symptoms do tend to worsen if endometriosis is left untreated.
Pelvic pain at the time of ovulation
Sharp pelvic pain during sex
Pain accompanying bowel movements or urination
Bleeding between periods
Endometriosis can be treated with medication or surgery. Your doctor's chosen treatment of the condition will be based upon the severity of your symptoms and whether or not you wish to conceive.
Medications for pain can relieve your symptoms, and hormone therapy is very effective at eliminating the cycle of rising and falling hormones that cause the syndrome. The drawback of hormone therapy is that it prevents the possibility of conception. Surgery to remove the adhesions may be the best course to take if a woman plans to conceive a child.