The endometrium is the inside lining of the uterus. Endometriosis occurs when some of the lining gets out of the uterus through the fallopian tubes and deposits in the pelvis or abdominal cavity.
Most commonly, endometrial deposits are found on the outside of the uterus or ovaries. They can also be found on the bowel, bladder, lining of the abdomen and ligaments of the abdominal wall muscles.
Symptoms of endometriosis include severe pain during or between periods, and sometimes pain with intercourse. Periods usually stay regular. Sometimes endometriosis causes low-grade fever and fatigue during a particular part of the menstrual cycle.
Endometriosis is diagnosed by a woman's symptoms and what a doctor finds on the physical exam. The confirmation of endometriosis is only made through surgery, enabling a doctor to see the endometrial deposits outside the uterus. This is often done laparoscopically, with a camera inserted into the abdomen, not with a full open surgery.
Surgery can also treat endometriosis. The surgeon can burn away the endometrial deposits, which can cure the condition. Other treatments include birth control pills or other hormones to suppress the activity of the endometrium.
Unfortunately, endometriosis can recur, but typically resolves after menopause.
Last Reviewed: October 2019