Endometriosis is a condition in which endometrial tissue (tissue that lines the inside of the womb or uterus) grows in other places outside the uterus such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Endometriosis may be a cause of pain. The endometrial tissue inside and outside of your uterus responds to your menstrual cycle hormones in a similar way – it swells and thickens, then sheds to mark the beginning of the next cycle. Unlike the menstrual blood from your uterus that is discharged through your vagina, the blood in endometriosis has no place to go. Inflammation occurs in the areas where the blood pools, causing pain and possibly forming scar tissue.

In addition, endometrial tissue growing inside the ovaries may form a type of ovarian cyst called an “endometrioma”, which in some instances may also cause pain.

Endometriosis is a progressive disease. It tends to get worse over time and can reoccur after treatment. Endometriosis usually improves after menopause.

How endometriosis is diagnosed and treated

Your medical history and a pelvic exam may suggest the diagnosis of endometriosis; however, only a laparoscopy can confirm this diagnosis. A laparoscopy is an outpatient surgical procedure.

Medications are commonly used to treat the pain of endometriosis and can be tried before surgery. Frequently used medications include ibuprofen or naproxen and hormones such as birth control pills, progesterone, or Lupron. Surgery is an option for treating endometriosis as well as diagnosing it.