What is Endometriosis
Endometrium is the tissue that lines the inside of the womb (uterus). During the menstrual cycle it increases in thickness in preparation for pregnancy and if that does not occur it is shed off. The bleeding that occurs during the shedding off is what is called as the menses. Endometriosis is a condition where the endometrium is also found in other areas of the body, usually within the pelvis. Like normal endometrium, this tissue also responds to hormones secreted by the ovary and is built up and shed off the same way. However unlike the normally sited endometrium, this "internal menses" has no way to get out of the body. Over time, this process can lead to the formation of 'chocolate' cysts (brownish fluid-filled sacs) in the ovaries or scar tissue and nodules (bumps) around and on the surface of the pelvic organs. Also, sometimes the internal bleeding from the endometriosis can cause the organs in the pelvis - the urinary bladder, uterus, ovaries, tubes, and the intestines to stick together (adhesions). Sometimes the endometrial tissue can grow in the muscle layer of the wall of the womb. This can result in thickening of the wall of the womb. This condition is called adenomyosis. Endometrial deposits can also be found, in or on the bowel and bladder or at sites remote from the pelvis like operation scars and in the lungs.
How common is endometriosis?
It is difficult to have an accurate number, however it is a common condition estimated to affect 20-30% of women of the reproductive age group.
Who does it affect?
Endometriosis can occur at any time from puberty until the menopause. It is extremely rare, but not unknown for it to be first diagnosed after the menopause.