Endometriosis is when endometrial-like tissue is found outside the womb, such as in the organs in the belly or pelvis. Normally, it is only found inside the womb where hormones cause it to thicken to get the body ready for a fertilized egg. It leaves the body during menstruation when a woman does not become pregnant.
Tissue that forms outside of the womb cannot pass during menstruation. This causes swelling and scarring.
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The cause is not known. It may be due to:
This problem is more common in women of reproductive age. It is also more common in women who are white. Other things that may raise the risk are:
Some people do not have problems. Others may have mild to severe problems, such as:
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A pelvic exam will be done.
Images will be taken of the pelvis. This can be done with an ultrasound taken from the outside of the belly. It may also be done with a probe placed in vagina.
Laparoscopy is needed to confirm the diagnosis. A small cut is made in the belly. A telescope is passed through it. It lets the doctor to look for signs of tissue outside the womb. A biopsy may be taken. It will be tested for signs of endometriosis.
Treatment depends on how severe the problems are. The goals are to ease pain and slow tissue growth. Options may be:
Medicine may be given to ease pain and swelling. It may be over-the-counter pain medicine, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Women with severe problems may need prescription pain medicine.
Hormone therapy may be given to women who are not trying to become pregnant. Birth control pills may be used to ease pain and shrink the size and number of growths. These problems often return when the pills are stopped, so they are often taken all the time. An intrauterine device may be used in those who are not helped by birth control pills. Hormone therapy may also be used after surgery to lower the chance of growths coming back.
There are no guidelines to prevent endometriosis.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Practice bulletin no. 114: management of endometriosis. Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Jul;116(1):223-36, reaffirmed 2018.
Endometriosis. ACOG website. Available at: https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Endometriosis. Updated January 2019. Accessed January 14, 2020.
Endometriosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/endometriosis . Updated August 30, 2019. Accessed January 14, 2020.
Endometriosis. Office on Women's Health—US Health and Human Services website. Available at: https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/endometriosis. Updated April 1, 2019. Accessed January 14, 2020.
Levine EM, et al: Deep Infiltrating Endometriosis: Making the Diagnosis. J Diagn Med Sonogr 2019;35(4):1-3.
Practice bulletin no. 114: management of endometriosis. Obstet Gynecol. 2010;116(1):223-236. Reaffirmed 2016.
2/12/2018 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115220/Endometriosis : Guerriero S, Saba L, et al. Transvaginal ultrasound (TVS) versus magnetic resonance (MR) for diagnosing deep infiltrating endometriosis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Nov 20.
Last reviewed September 2019 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG
Last Updated: 1/14/2020