Endometriosis occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) begins to grow outside the uterus. Each month the endometrium is shed with the onset of menses. Some of the blood and endometrial tissue fragments may reach the abdominal cavity through the Fallopian tubes. This tissue may then attach itself to the reproductive organs or the lining of the abdominal cavity (the peritoneum).
Each month these little islands of abnormal tissue will break down and bleed during the period, often leading to more severe period pain and pain during sexual intercourse. The repetitive cycles of breakdown and healing lead to the formation of scar tissue (adhesions) which can potentially block the fallopian tubes. Endometriosis may also interfere with ovulation and with the implantation of the embryo.
It is a common disorder. Studies have shown that 30-50% of infertile women have some degree of endometriosis. Women are approximately 5 times more likely to have the disease if they have a first degree relative who has been diagnosed with endometriosis.
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