Endometriosis can occur at any age throughout the reproductive years. It occurs when endometrial tissue which normally grows inside the uterus during each menstrual cycle, begins to grow in areas outside of the uterus in the abdomen. The more common locations are in the ovaries, Fallopian tubes and ligaments supporting the uterus in the pelvis. More severe cases can grow on the bladder or bowel and cause adhesions (scar tissue) resulting in the pelvic organs becoming "glued" together.
Endometriosis is difficult to diagnose simply. It may present with pelvic pain, usually worse at the time of periods, abnormal bleeding, painful intercourse or infertility. Although newer ultrasound and MRI scanning techniques can detect endometriosis, visual confirmation with laparoscopy is the definitive diagnostic approach.
No known complete cure for endometriosis exists. Hormone suppression with the contraceptive pill or Mirena intrauterine device may be effective for some women, while laparoscopic surgery to burn or excise the endometriosis may be required for others.