Thanks to one of my readers for recently asking: what is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a gynecological disorder characterized by the abnormal growth of cells that are similar to those from the interior walls of the uterus. Endometriosis implants occur when endometrial cells, those that are shed every month during menstruation, attach to tissue outside of the uterus. These implants are commonly found in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, outer surface of the uterus, and the intestine. Endometrial implants may cause a problem, but are usually benign.

In the United States, three to 18 percent of women (equally among American, African and Asian women) are diagnosed with the endometriosis. It is one of the leading causes of pelvic pain, and the most common reason for hysterectomy and laparoscopic surgery. Endometriosis often manifests when a woman reaches her reproductive years, but is most common in women aged 25 to 35. The youngest person to be reported with endometriosis was an 11-year old girl.

What causes endometriosis
The cause of endometriosis is unknown, but there is a theory that endometrial tissue deposited in an unusual location – which happens when menstrual flow is backed up in the fallopian tubes and pelvic cavity – causes endometriosis. Other theories include:

  • Retrograde menstruation– Backflow of menstrual fluid into the pelvic cavity.
  • Transplantation Theory– Endometriosis spreads through the lymphatic and circulatory system.
  • Coelomic Metaplasia– When endometrial cells are stimulated, they transform themselves in a different kind of cells. This is common among women taking estrogen replacement therapy.