Endometrial tissue also may grow abnormally in the abdominal area or, more rarely, migrate far from the pelvic region — it may be found in the lungs, skin, and other regions of the body, for example. Wherever it is — in the uterus or elsewhere — endometrial tissue continues to respond to hormonal signals produced by the ovaries each month. But unlike the tissue lining the uterus, which is shed with menstruation and leaves your body, misplaced endometrial tissue is trapped. With no place to go, the tissue bleeds, causing an inflammatory response which can lead to scar tissue formation (adhesions). This inflammation and the resulting scar tissue causes pain and other symptoms typical of endometriosis, if left untreated.
Since most women experience some amount of retrograde menstruation without it developing into endometriosis, some researchers believe something else may contribute to the development of the condition. Other theories suggests that endometriosis is an immune system problem or hormonal imbalance that enables the endometrial tissue to take root and grow after it is pushed out of the uterus into the pelvic cavity or elsewhere. Environmental factors may also play a role, some theories suggest. Others believe that in patients with endometriosis, the endometrium itself is abnormal, leading to the abnormal implants.
Endometriosis occurs only after the onset of regular menstruation and can sometimes strike girls in their teens. Around 10 to 15 percent of all reproductive-age are thought to suffer from endometriosis. Endometriosis has a reputation for causing infertility, but most women with this condition do not have trouble getting pregnant.
There is some evidence that a family history of endometriosis may contribute to your likelihood of developing this disease. If you have a mother or sister who is battling endometriosis or has been diagnosed with it, there is a seven-fold increase in the chance that you may develop the disease.
Medical research indicates that daughters of women who took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES), during the years 1938 through 1971 to prevent miscarriage, have an increased risk of developing this disease.
Copyright 2003 National Women's Health Resource Center Inc. (NWHRC)