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Ovarian Endometriosis - Causes, Symptom & Treatment

Endometrial tissue is normally found lining the walls of the uterus, where it has a particular job in assisting the implanting of a fertilized egg and the development of the embryo. This specialized tissue is not found anywhere else in the female body, except when endometriosis is present. When endometrial tissue migrates outside the uterus and attaches to other organs, the condition is called endometriosis.

One might think that this should not be a problem, but endometrial implants situated outside the uterus react in exactly the same way as the endometrium or lining of the uterus. Each month of the woman's menstrual cycle, hormones are released to prepare the lining of the uterus for a fertilized egg. The endometrium responds by thickening, swelling and increasing the blood supply to the area. If no fertilized egg is received, hormones signal the excess tissue and blood that has been built up, to be released. It passes out of the body during the woman's monthly period.

The endometrial implants outside the uterus respond in exactly the same way as the endometrium. So, they swell and thicken when ovulation occurs and then bleed when no egg is received. This causes pain and the formation of scar tissue. Adhesions can cause the organs and tissue within the pelvic cavity to stick together and pull different parts out of place.

Ovarian endometriosis is when the ovaries are involved. Endometrial tissue has implanted either on the outside of one or both ovaries, or it has adhered to the inside of them. Ovarian endometriosis can form cysts on the ovaries which are called endometriomas; these are also known as chocolate cysts as they are filled with old blood which is very dark in color.

Endometrioma and ovarian endometriosis interfere with the correct functioning of the ovaries, causing fertility problems in some women. Adhesions may pull the ovaries out of place and so make the accurate depositing of an egg into the fallopian tube a potential problem. Endometrial tissue inside the ovary can interfere with an egg being prepared for fertilization and released at ovulation. The pain and discomfort of endometriosis can further affect how well a woman can conceive if intercourse is painful, she has excessive bleeding or her mood is affected.

Ovarian endometriosis is diagnosed by a pelvic exam, laparoscopy surgery and can also be seen in abdominal ultrasound examination. Some women suffer symptoms which cause them to seek medical advice while others have no idea that anything is wrong. The first treatment method is often a course of oral contraceptives, the hormones in which have the effect of suppressing the monthly menstrual cycle. This treatment is usually effective in relieving many of the endometriosis symptoms because it allows the endometriosis to heal.

Other treatment options are dependant on whether the woman wants to have babies in the future. Endometriomas are usually surgically removed, particularly when future fertility is an issue. Oophorectomy, or removal of the ovaries, is preferred when babies are not desired. Women with ovarian endometriosis often need help in conceiving if their ovaries are not able to function properly. New research at Monash University, Australia, has shown that women with ovarian endometriosis have nearly double the risk of having a premature birth when they have used assisted reproduction methods.

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