Endometriosis affects an estimated 176 million women worldwide regardless of their ethnic and social background. Many remain undiagnosed and are therefore not treated.
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (the endometrial stroma and glands, which should only be located inside the uterus) is found elsewhere in the body .
It is generally acknowledged that an estimated 10% of all women during their reproductive years (from the onset of menstruation to menopause) are affected by endometriosis . This equates to 176 million women throughout the world, who have to deal with the symptoms of endometriosis during the prime years of their lives .
Endometriosis lesions can be found anywhere in the pelvic cavity:
- on the ovaries
- the fallopian tubes
- on the pelvic side-wall (peritoneum)
- the uterosacral ligaments,
- the cul-de-sac,
- the Pouch of Douglas
- the rectal-vaginal septum
In addition, it can be found in:
- caesarian-section scars
- laparoscopy/laparotomy scars
- on the bladder
- on the bowel
- on the intestines, colon, appendix, and rectum.
But these locations are not so common. In even more rare cases, endometriosis has been found inside the vagina, inside the bladder, on the skin, in the lung, spine, and brain.
Symptoms of endometriosis
The most common symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain.
The pain often correlates to the menstrual cycle, but a woman with endometriosis may also experience pain that doesn’t correlate to her cycle – this is what makes this disease/condition so unpredictable and frustrating.
For many women, the pain of endometriosis is so severe and debilitating that it impacts their lives in significant ways.
Endometriosis can also cause scar tissue and adhesions to develop that can distort a woman’s internal anatomy. In advanced stages, internal organs may fuse together, causing a condition known as a “frozen pelvis.” This is not common, but it does happen.
It is estimated that 30-40% of women with endometriosis may not be able to have children (if you suspect you suffer from infertility, please see our section on endometriosis and infertility).
If you, or someone you care about, has endometriosis, it is important to research the disease as much as possible. Many myths and misconceptions about endometriosis still persist, even in the medical literature.