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  • Scripps Health

What is endometriosis and how is it treated?

A closer look at a disease that affects millions of women

Endometriosis affects millions of women in the United States, and is one of the leading causes of infertility. If it hasn’t affected you, chances are it has affected a family member or friend.

Endometriosis is a disease of the female reproductive system. It happens when the uterine lining grows outside the uterus, causing pain, irregular bleeding and sometimes infertility.

It’s estimated that one in 10 women of childbearing age has endometriosis, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. It is most common in women in their 30s and 40s.

There is no cure yet and no one knows for certain why it happens.

“The good news is that there are plenty of treatment options for endometriosis to ease symptoms and improve quality of life," says Lily Tsai, MD, a robotic surgeon and obstetrician-gynecologist at Scripps Clinic.

Treatment includes medication, surgery or both. When surgery is necessary, it often can be done in a fertility-sparing way without having a hysterectomy, which is the removal of the uterus.

“Minimally invasive surgery, including robotic surgery, can remove the abnormal tissue associated with the condition,” Dr. Tsai says.

What are the symptoms of endometriosis?

Endometriosis most often occurs on or under the ovaries, on the fallopian tubes, behind the uterus, on the tissues that hold the uterus in place or on the bowels or bladder.

Endometriosis tissue may grow and bleed like the uterine lining does during menstrual cycle. This can cause pain and inflammation in the surrounding tissue.

Chronic pelvic pain is the most common symptom, especially just before and during menstruation.

Other symptoms include:

  • Pain during or after sex

  • Painful bowel movements or painful urination