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Definition of Endometriosis

What is the Definition of Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a condition in which endometrial tissue, usually only found in the lining of the uterus, appears in other locations in the body.

What is Endometrial Tissue?

Endometrial tissue is unique to the endometrium, the lining of the uterus, and is found nowhere else in the human body under normal circumstances. These special cells are designed to receive a fertilized egg and to nourish a growing embryo. Each month, during a woman's menstrual cycle, the endometrium thickens, swells and fills with blood at the time when an egg is released from the ovaries during the process called ovulation. This change to the endometrium is in anticipation of receiving a fertilized egg. If no fertilization takes place, the excess tissue and blood from the endometrium breaks away and is flushed out during the woman's period.

How does Endometrial Tissue get outside the uterus?

The exact cause of endometriosis is not fully understood but there are several theories as to how and why this happens. One of these theories that appears to have some substance is that menstrual fluids may flow up into the fallopian tubes, carrying endometrial tissue with it, and from there the cells are carried outside the uterus into the abdominal cavity. Once there, they may attach to other organs and grow, forming endometriosis.

Another theory suggests that the lymphatic system, which drains excess fluids from different parts of the body, may carry endometrial tissue outside the uterus. Other scientists theorize that hormones are responsible while some believe that a faulty immune system is the cause of endometriosis.

Where does Endometriosis usually occur?

Endometrial tissue can theoretically be found on any organ in the abdominal cavity but the most common sites are the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowel and bladder. When the ovaries and fallopian tubes are involved, fertility is often affected and the woman finds she has difficulty becoming pregnant. When the bladder and bowel are involved, the woman may experience pain when urinating, during a bowel movement or in this area during menstruation.

Who is at risk of Endometriosis?

Research has shown that endometriosis appears to run in families, so if you have a close relative who has had the disease, such as your mother or sister, you may be at greater risk. While it is believed that the condition may start soon after menstruation first begins, most women are unaware they have it until they reach their reproductive years. Many women remain unaware they have endometriosis as they may never experience any symptoms.

Sometimes, endometriosis is discovered during investigation of another, unrelated, condition. Most commonly, it is diagnosed when a woman seeks medical advice when she has tried unsuccessfully to fall pregnant.

Statistics show that endometriosis is most common in women aged from 25 to 45 years. Women who have their first pregnancy after the age of thirty seem to be more at risk. Caucasian women are more prone to endometriosis than other races, although women of any race might develop the condition.

There is evidence to suggest that a woman born with a congenital defect of the uterus may be more at risk of having endometriosis. Because between 25 and 50 percent of women who fail to conceive have endometriosis, some doctors believe that infertility might increase a woman's susceptibility to the disease.

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