Endometriosis is a painful condition caused by uterine tissue growing outside of the uterus. The uterus, or womb, is lined on the inside by tissue known as endometrium. On the right and left of the uterus two structures called fallopian tubes are attached. At the ends of these fallopian tubes are the ovaries, or egg baskets, which hold the eggs, or ova. When endometrial tissue grows into the fallopian tubes, the ovaries, or into the pelvis, the result is endometriosis.
Gynecologists can sometimes diagnose endometriosis by pelvic examination, although ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are more sensitive. Sometimes laparoscopy is performed. A small hole is cut near the navel and a laparoscope, a tube with a light, is passed into the abdomen for the surgeon to see inside the pelvis.
When endometriosis is diagnosed patients and their physicians have medical and surgical options for treatment. Mild cases can be treated with non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen or naproxen to control pain, sometimes along with hormone therapy. Long-term hormonal contraception is another possibility for women who do not want to conceive. Hysterectomy and oophorectomy (removal of the uterus and ovaries) is considered the choice of last resort. Removal of only endometrial tissue is preferred. When endometriosis prevents conception, medication to induce the ovaries to release more ova or in vitro fertilization are options.