What is Endometriosis?
The lining of the uterine cavity is known as endometrium. When this tissue is found to be growing in other areas outside the uterine cavity it is known as endometriosis. These areas of tissue then respond to the same hormones that the lining responds to, producing certain chemicals and bleeding during the period. This bleeding can irritate surrounding tissues causing pain and sometimes resulting in scarring and the formation of cysts.
Endometriosis does not necessarily produce symptoms in all patients, in fact patients with no symptoms at all apart from infertility can be found to have quite severe endometriosis and if symptoms are present then they are not always proportional to the severity of the disease. If endometriosis is present in one member of a family, there is a high chance of other female members also having it.
The pain can start prior to the period as well as continuing throughout the period itself. Sometimes patients suffer from lower back pain or pain referred down the legs, as well as frequently feeling pain during sex (‘dyspareunia’) or on opening their bowels (dyschexia) or may pass blood in their urine during their period. If there is endometriosis within the ovary itself, this can cause cysts known as endometriomas. These endometriomas can also cause pain and significantly affect fertility.
Endometriosis and Infertility
Endometriosis can also cause infertility due to the scarring and the chemical effects from the diseased tissue itself. The physical effect of scarring can stick down ovaries and tubes, and make it very difficult for the fallopian tube to to pick up eggs. Endometriotic tissue can also release chemicals which may damage sperm.