What Is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a very common gynecological condition affecting women in their reproductive years. The cause of endometriosis is still mostly undetermined, and the condition involves the endometrium (cells making up the internal lining of the uterine cavity) growing outside the uterus, most commonly on fallopian tubes, ovaries, bowel, and the pelvic tissue linings. Endometriosis affects women’s fertility in many ways.

Endometriosis and Infertility

Dr. Norbert Gleicher discusses endometriosis and how infertility treatments must address conditions caused by endometriosis.

Like the endometrial lining in the endometrial cavity of the uterus, this extra-uterine growth is affected by the patient's monthly hormonal cycle, first thickening and then shedding the superficial layer with her menstrual cycle. However, within the peritoneal cavity, the resulting bleeding does not have an exit route. The woman's immune system sees the bleeding as an "open wound," and treats it as such, causing scarring, in a process similar to the healing after a skin cut. Over time, accumulation of scar tissue causes adhesions and sometimes severe pain, if close to nerve fibers. When impacting the fallopian tubes, endometriosis can also negatively impact fertility and outcomes of infertility treatments.

Reported rates of endometriosis vary greatly, but the consensus is that approximately 5-10% of all women suffer from this condition. Endometriosis is much more common amongst women with infertility.

Last Updated: November 15, 2014

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