Endometriosis - Part 2 of 4

26 June 2013

The next 2 weeks we will continue along the learning of what Endometriosis is. We found this brilliantly written article by by Peter Lavelle who explains it in easily understandable terms. We hope you agree.

Endometrium is the name given to the inside lining of the cavity of the uterus (the womb). But in a percentage of women, patches of endometrium-like tissue are found elsewhere in the pelvis or abdomen – on the ovaries, uterus, bowel, bladder, ligaments (bands of tissue that hold the uterus in place) and in the Pouch of Douglas (the area between the uterus and bowel).

Exactly why tissue that should normally be found in the uterus ends up at these other sites isn't known. One theory says that fragments of endometrium somehow migrate up through the fallopian tubes and then out into the pelvis through the space between the end of the fallopian tube and the ovary. Another says that the aberrant endometrium is laid down during early foetal life.

Despite the fact that they aren't in the uterus, the fragments of tissue still act like uterine endometrium. They are influenced by the same sex hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) that cause the uterine endometrium to thicken in the first half of the menstrual cycle, and (if there's no pregnancy), to break down and bleed in the second half. But the unlike the endometrium in the uterus, which is passed through the cervix and vagina as a menstrual period, the pelvic endometrium has nowhere to go and bleeds directly onto the surface of the surrounding organs and tissues. This causes irritation which leads to inflammation, scarring and, sometimes, the development of adhesions (abnormal fibrous tissue growth) between organs.

As the disease progresses, these areas of aberrant endometrium grow and they may eventually form cysts. These are usually small – less than two or three centimetres in diameter – but can grow as large as ten or more centimetres. Cysts on the ovary are known as 'chocolate cysts' or endometriomas.

Endometriosis is a common condition, affecting about ten per cent of Australian women at some stage during their menstruating years. It can occur at any time between puberty and menopause. It's more common in women who have few pregnancies or none, who have pregnancies later in life, who don't breastfeed (or breastfeed for short periods) and/or have female relatives with the disease.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/health/library/stories/2004/03/25/1829440.htm#.UYeMhitgZro