Endometriosis is a disorder in which the endometrial tissue, or the inner lining of the uterus, migrates to areas outside the uterus, most commonly the ovaries and Fallopian tubes. The endometrial tissue is the same tissue that thickens throughout the menstrual cycle causing the menstrual period. When this process occurs outside the uterus, the blood has nowhere to go causing pain in the pelvic area.
The symptoms of endometriosis include pelvic pain, heavy menstrual periods, bleeding between periods and infertility. Because many other conditions can cause these symptoms, endometriosis is often difficult to diagnose. The causes of endometriosis are uncertain, but it does tend to run in families, and having children likely reduces the risk of endometriosis. Treatment for endometriosis ranges from symptom management with pain medication and hormone therapy such as oral contraceptives to surgical treatment. Conservative surgery involves removing the misplaced endometrial tissue while preserving the uterus. In severe cases and in cases where women are not hoping to reproduce in the future, a hysterectomy may be performed. Endometriosis is not the same as endometrial cancer, which is cancer of the uterine lining, although the two conditions do share many similar symptoms, often allowing for early detection of endometrial cancer.