Font Size


Endometriosis Overview

Endometriosis is a common disorder of the female reproductive organs and is the leading cause of chronic pelvic pain in women.

  • In women who have endometriosis, tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (endometrium) develops in other areas of the body, most commonly within the pelvic area or the abdominal cavity. The endometrial tissue may attach itself to the ovaries, the outside of the uterus, the intestines, or other abdominal organs. Rarely, endometriosis occurs outside the abdominal cavity, such as in the brain or lungs. Endometriosis may also develop in surgical scars following surgery on pelvic organs. The term "implant" is used to refer to a specific area of endometriosis in a certain tissue.
  • Many American women will experience problems with endometriosis, but an exact determination of the number of women affected is difficult, since many women may have the condition and do not have symptoms. In other situations, women may also have symptoms that could be attributed to endometriosis, but never undergo formal diagnostic studies to confirm that the condition is present. Most women who are diagnosed with endometriosis are between 25 and 35 years of age. Women may have symptoms for years before a definitive diagnosis is made.
  • During pelvic surgery for any gynecologic condition, about 1% of women are observed to have endometriosis. The percentages are much higher in young women undergoing laparoscopic surgery for pelvic pain and in women undergoing laparoscopic surgery to evaluate infertility.
  • Endometriosis is more common in Caucasian women than in African American or Asian women. Studies have also reported that endometriosis tends to occur most commonly in taller, thin women with a low body mass index (BMI).
  • Women with first degree relatives who have endometriosis are also more likely to develop the condition, suggesting that the genes a woman inherits from her parents can sometimes predispose her to develop endometriosis.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/3/2015

Must Read Articles Related to Endometriosis

Female Sexual Problems
Female Sexual Problems Long considered a taboo subject, women's sexuality is now openly discussed and portrayed on television, in magazines, and on the internet. Symptoms of female se...learn more >>
Infertility Infertility affects about 6.1 million people in the United States, about 10% of men and women of reproductive age. A fertility specialist is usually an obstetri...learn more >>
Laparoscopy Laparoscopy is a less invasive form of surgery where surgeons make tiny incisions and insert tiny instruments and a camera into the incision to view internal or...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Endometriosis:

Endometriosis - Treatment

What was the treatment for your endometriosis?

Endometriosis - Cause

What was the cause of your endometriosis?

Endometriosis - Symptoms

What were the symptoms of your endometriosis?

Endometriosis Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Endometriosis?

The most common symptom of endometriosis is pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis, or the lower back, mainly during menstrual periods. The amount of pain a woman feels does not depend on how much endometriosis she has. Some women have no pain, even though their disease affects large areas. Other women with endometriosis have severe pain even though they have only a few small growths.

Symptoms of endometriosis can include:

  • Very painful menstrual cramps; pain may get worse over time
  • Chronic pain in the lower back and pelvis
  • Pain during or after sex
  • Intestinal pain
  • Painful bowel movements or painful urination during menstrual periods
  • Spotting or bleeding between menstrual periods
  • Infertility or not being able to get pregnant
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea, constipation, bloating, or nausea, especially during menstrual periods

Recent research shows a link between other health problems in women with endometriosis and their families. Some of these include:

  • Allergies, asthma, and chemical sensitivities
  • Autoimmune diseases, in which the body's system that fights illness attacks itself instead. These can include hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, and lupus.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia
  • Being more likely to get infections and mononucleosis (ma-no-nu-klee-OH-suhs)
  • Mitral valve prolapse, a condition in which one of the heart's valves does not close as tightly as normal
  • Frequent yeast infections
  • Certain cancers, such as ovarian, breast, endocrine, kidney, thyroid, brain, and colon cancers, and melanoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

SOURCE: Endometriosis.

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Endometriosis »

Endometriosis, the presence of endometriumlike glands and stroma outside the uterus, is a common, poorly understood, and extremely debilitating benign gynecological condition.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

Medical Dictionary