What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a chronic disease that varies in severity on an individual basis.  It is characterized by scar tissue that grows outside of the uterine cavity and can attach to other organs including the ovaries, bowels, and intestines.  The presence of endometriosis is linked to a woman’s blood estrogen levels.

Endometriosis affects approximately 5 million women in the US, though the exact number is not known due to the varying degree of symptoms or absence of symptoms in women.  While some women may never experience symptoms of endometriosis and often do not know they have the disease, many other women experience pain and heavy bleeding with each menstrual cycle.  Some of the symptoms of endometriosis include:

  • pain, varying in severity
  • abnormal or heavy bleeding at varying times throughout the menstrual cycle
  • fatigue and physical exhaustion
  • mood swings or depression
  • infertility or trouble trying to conceive
  • endometrial tissue growths both inside and outside of the uterine cavity

Fertility doctors and OB-GYN doctors may refer to endometrial tissue growth outside of the uterus as lesions or nodules.  These are typically not cancerous growths, though they cause scarring and can impact embryo implantation.  If scar tissue forms on the fallopian tubes, it may impede ovulation.

The best way to get a sound diagnosis of endometriosis is with laparoscopy and a biopsy of the endometrium conducted by a fertility doctor (reproductive endocrinologist).

Treatment of the disease depends on whether a woman is currently trying to conceive.  If she is not trying to build her family, synthetic hormone drugs may help balance a woman’s estrogen levels to stop the progression of the disease, manage symptoms, and prevent scar tissue from causing future fertility risks.  If a woman is trying to conceive, she may have some of the scar tissue removed from the uterus or undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF) which bypasses scar tissue on the fallopian tubes and ovaries.

If you have endometriosis or wish to undergo an evaluation for endometriosis, contact Fertility Authority’s Patient Care Advocates by emailing carecoordinator@fertilityauthority.com.  They will connect you with an endometriosis specialist in your area.