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What Is Endometriosis?
Definition of Endometriosis
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What Causes Endometriosis?

It is common for people to want to know the cause of any medical problem they have but, for women who suffer from endometriosis, there is no clear and simple answer. Endometriosis is a condition where the specific type of cells normally found only in the endometrium or lining of the uterus, are found in other parts of the patient's body. It is a medical problem unique to women and there is no other condition like it in humans.

So, how do these specific cells, that have a definitive role to play in the development of an embryo, come to be outside the uterus? The cause is not yet known although there are several theories that have been put forward to try and explain the condition. One such theory concerns the proven fact that menstrual fluids can sometimes flow into the fallopian tubes, which could carry endometrial tissue.

Once in the tubes, this fluid is able to pass into the abdominal cavity and this would explain how the unique endometrial tissue gets to be outside the uterus where it should be found exclusively. This theory is called Retrograde Menstruation.

Evidence exists to prove that the theory of retrograde menstruation is a plausible cause of endometriosis. Research shows that women who have had their fallopian tubes cut or tied, as a means of preventing unwanted pregnancy, rarely develop endometriosis. Likewise, women who have conditions which prevent or limit the normal flow of menstrual fluids seem not to get endometriosis.

Another theory suggests that endometrial tissue could be distributed to other organs by way of the lymphatic system, which is a complex system of vessels which help to drain excess fluid from different parts of the body. Other scientists believe that hormonal changes or inflammation could cause ordinary tissue to change into the endometrial type of tissue.

Others say that a faulty immune system is the cause of endometriosis; the immune system fights infections and captures abnormal cells, but a deficient immune system may fail to remove the stray endometrial cells as they migrate from the uterus, thus allowing them to attach to other organs where they multiply and grow.

Endometriosis has been shown to have genetic links because it appears to run in family groups. Scientists, who subscribe to the genetic theory for the cause of endometriosis, point to this fact when explaining that the disease is genetic. Embryonic tissue theorists think that endometriosis is caused by tiny sections of embryonic tissue that have remained in the woman's body and develop into endometrial tissue after puberty.

A fairly recent theory concerns hormones and organochlorines. Organochlorines are chemicals that are predominantly contained in pesticides that have been shown to act in a similar way as hormones in the human body. For this reason, they are sometimes referred to as environmental estrogens. They have been linked with various cancers, particularly of the reproductive organs and some types of breast cancer; they have also been linked with some estrogen related diseases such as endometriosis.

Endometriosis develops slowly and may take many years before it produces the symptoms which alert the patient and doctor to the fact that there may be a problem. Some doctors believe that the condition may start to develop when a woman commences menstruation but she may not experience any symptoms until she is in her 30s.

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