Endometriosis (en-doh-me-tree-o-sis) is a word that 1 in 10 women* hear from their gynaecologist, relating to their ongoing pain or as an explanation for their fertility problems.
It is one of the most commonly seen gynaecological diseases, yet is poorly understood and not commonly talked about.
Symptoms of endometriosis can begin prior to the first menstrual period, and for most people, symptoms persist throughout their lives. It can persist into menopause. Endometriosis can have a profound effect on an individual’s quality of life. Endometriosis has been found in cis males (born male), trans males, pre-menarcheal girls and postmenopausal women.
Endometriosis is a common chronic (long-term) inflammatory condition where tissue, similar to the tissue that normally grows inside the uterus, grows outside of the uterus. The most common places where endometriosis occurs are the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the bowel, and the areas in front, on the back, and to the sides of the uterus. It can also be found on the bladder and bowel. In some cases, it is found outside the pelvis (lung, skin, brain, diaphragm).
Endometriosis is found commonly in the pelvic area, peritoneum, ovaries, bowel and bladder. In rare cases, it can be found in other sites in the body. These deposits cause an inflammatory reaction that can lead to pain, scar tissue and adhesion formation. It is believed that the endometriosis deposits react to the same hormonal stimulation as normal endometrium. This can lead to symptoms which may be worse at certain times of the cycle, in particular at ovulation, prior to and during menstruation (period).
Endometriosis triggers a chronic inflammatory reaction resulting in pain and adhesions. Adhesions develop when scar tissue attaches separate structures or organs together. Pain and symptoms due to endometriosis may vary during the menstrual cycle as hormone levels fluctuate.
Symptoms may be worse at certain times in the cycle, with ovulation, prior to menstruation and during the period being the most severe for many women. While some women with endometriosis experience severe pelvic pain, others have no symptoms at all or regard their symptoms as simply being period pain/cramps.
Endometriosis is one of the leading causes of infertility, however, it is estimated that 60 – 70% of women with endometriosis will conceive, this may increase with the removal of endometriosis and the use of assisted reproductive techniques.
There is no cure for endometriosis, but there are several treatment and management options. The best treatment depends on your individual situation.
*Endometriosis research, terminology and discussion is focused around cis heterosexual females and menstruation. We recognise that there are many individuals living with endometriosis who are not cis female, who do not menstruate, who do not have a uterus and who do not identify with the terms used in the literature. For the purposes of our website and educational material we use this terminology, however, it is not intended to isolate, exclude or diminish any individual’s experience.
- Kennedy, S., Bergqvist, A., Chapron, C., D’Hooghe, T., Dunselman, G., Greb, R., Saridogan, E. (2005). ESHRE guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis. Human Reproduction,20(10), 2698-2704. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/dei135
- Rogers PAW, D’Hooghe TM, Fazleabas A, et al. Priorities for Endometriosis Research: Recommendations From an International Consensus Workshop. Reproductive Sciences. 2009;16(4):335-346. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/1933719108330568
- Rei, C., Williams, T., & Feloney, M. (2018). Endometriosis in a Man as a Rare Source of Abdominal Pain: A Case Report and Review of the Literature. Case Reports in Obstetrics and Gynecology,2018, 1-6. doi: https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/2083121
- Cook, A., & Hopton, E. (2017). Endometriosis Presenting in a Transgender Male. Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology, 24(7). doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmig.2017.08.297
- Laufer, M. (2000). Premenarcheal Endometriosis Without an Associated Obstructive Anomaly: Presentation, Diagnosis, and Treatment. Fertility and Sterility,74(3). doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/s0015-0282(00)00764-0
- Characteristics and symptoms in 3895 women diagnosed with endometriosis in an Australian genetic epidemiological study. (2005). European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology,123. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/s0301-2115(05)80207-6