Endometriosis is a medical condition in females in which endometrial like cells appear and flourish in areas outside the uterine cavity, most commonly on the ovaries. The uterine cavity is lined by endometrial cells, which are under the influence of female hormones.
These endometrial-like cells in areas outside the uterus (endometriosis) are influenced by hormonal changes and respond similarly as do those cells found inside the uterus. Symptoms often worsen in time with the menstrual cycle.
Endometriosis is typically seen during the reproductive years; it has been estimated that it occurs in roughly 5% to 10% of women. Symptoms may depend on the site of active endometriosis. Its main but not universal symptom is pelvic pain in various manifestations. Endometriosis is a common finding in women with infertility.
Endometriosis can affect any female, from premenarche to postmenopause, regardless of race or ethnicity or whether or not they have had children. It is primarily a disease of the reproductive years. Estimates about its prevalence vary, but 5–10% is a reasonable number, more common in women with infertility (20–50%) and women with chronic pelvic pain (about 80%). As an estrogen-dependent process, it can persist beyond menopause and persists in up to 40% of patients following hysterectomy.
Endometriosis in postmenopausal women does occur and has been described as an aggressive form of this disease characterized by complete progesterone resistance and extraordinarily high levels of aromatase expression. In less common cases, girls may have endometriosis symptoms before they even reach menarche.
Endometriosis bears no relationship to endometrial cancer. Current research has demonstrated an association between endometriosis and certain types of cancers, notably ovarian cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and brain cancer. Endometriosis often also coexists with leiomyoma or adenomyosis, as well as autoimmune disorders. A 1988 survey conducted in the US found significantly more Hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune diseases, allergies and asthma in women with endometriosis compared to the general population.
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