Endometriosis is the presence of endometrium (the cells which line the inside of the uterus) outside of the uterine cavity. Often, it is found in cyst form in the ovaries, or in deposits on the lining of the pelvic cavity. Many women with endometriosis are asymptomatic, but some women have pelvic pain and/or infertility. Endometriosis can be strongly suspected based on clinical symptoms, but the only way to definitively diagnose it is to take biopsies of affected tissue during a surgical procedure and to confirm the presence of endometriotic cells. There are multiple theories about how endometriosis develops, but the exact cause is unknown. Endometriosis commonly runs in families and is thought to affect 10% of women of reproductive age.
Endometriosis responds to the hormones of the female menstrual cycle, and can cause pain, inflammation and scarring. There are a variety of treatment options, depending on a patient’s history, symptoms and reproductive goals. Certain medications, such as oral contraceptive pills, can help to provide pain relief in women who do not want to become pregnant. In some situations, surgical resection of endometriosis can be helpful in alleviating symptoms. Women with endometriosis who are struggling with infertility are often helped by fertility treatments.