Endometriosis is a disease affecting millions of women throughout the world. It is not cancerous. It is a condition where tissue similar to the inside lining of the womb is also found in places outside the womb. The inside lining of the womb is called the endometrium. The endometrium reacts to the hormones released by the ovaries. It prepares itself each month for pregnancy. If the woman does not become pregnant, the endometrium is shedded as a period.

Endometriosis also goes through the monthly cycle. If it is present outside the womb there is no escape for the blood, which remains and irritates the surrounding tissues. Endometriosis can be found on the ligament supports of the womb and nearby organs such as the ovaries, the bladder and the bowel. It can sometimes be found in the more distant sites such as the lungs or navel. Endometriosis can appear as spots or patches or as cysts on the ovaries.

It may be present in only a few small isolated areas or in some more severe cases it may be present throughout the pelvis. In most women endometriosis grows slowly and can remain stable for years. It may remain unchanged, become scar tissue or disappear over a period of months. It can also form cysts on the ovaries called endometriomas (also known as “chocolate” cysts because of the presence of altered blood within the cyst). A woman may suddenly feel pain when an endometrioma bleeds or bursts. In severe cases, adhesions (web-like scar tissues) may be formed which may bind the womb, tubes ovaries and nearby intestines together.

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File type: application/pdf Review date: February 2013