What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis (pronounced end - oh – mee – tree – oh – sis) is the name given to the condition where cells like the ones in the lining of the womb (uterus) are found elsewhere in the body.
Every month your body goes through hormonal changes. You naturally release hormones which cause the lining of the womb to increase in preparation for a fertilised egg. If pregnancy does not occur, this lining will break down and bleed. The blood is then released from your body as a period.
Endometriosis cells react in the same way – except that they are located outside your womb. During your monthly cycle your hormones stimulate the endometriosis, causing it to grow, then break down and bleed. This internal bleeding, unlike a period, has no way of leaving the body. This leads to inflammation, pain, and the formation of scar tissue (adhesions). Endometrial tissue can also be found in the ovary, where it can form cysts, called ‘chocolate cysts’ because of their appearance.
- Endometriosis is not an infection.
- Endometriosis is not contagious.
- Endometriosis is not cancer.
Endometriosis is most commonly found inside the pelvis, around the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, on the outside of the womb or the ligaments (which hold the womb in place), or the area between your rectum and your womb, called the Pouch of Douglas. It is also found on the bowel, the bladder, the intestines, the vagina and the rectum. You can also have endometrial tissue that grows in the muscle layer of the wall of the womb (adenomyosis). It can grow in existing scars from previous operations. In rare cases it has been found in other parts of the body such as the skin, the eyes, the spine, the lungs and the brain.
Endometriosis affects approximately 1.5 million women in the UK. It can be a chronic and debilitating condition. Endometriosis can impact on a woman’s life in a number of ways which include:
- Chronic pain
- Fatigue/lack of energy
- Problems with a couple’s sex life/relationships
- An inability to conceive
- Difficulty in fulfilling work and social commitments.
However, with the right help, you can address many of these issues.