The tissue that makes up the lining of the uterus is called endometrium. Every month the endometrium swells with blood in preparation for fertilization and pregnancy. If fertilization does not occur the endometrium sheds off and comes out as menstrual blood.
Patients suffering from endometriosis have the endometrium growing outside the uterus – in the external walls of the uterus, in the ovaries, in the abdominal cavity or any part of the body. In extreme cases endometrial tissue may grow in the lungs or even the brain.
Wherever these tissues grow, every month during menstruation, all of them swell and bleed just like the endometrium in the uterus does. When blood touches these other organs it causes a lot of pain due to inflammation and irritation.
Endometriosis, Dr Omanwa says, is believed to start when some blood from menstruation flows backwards through the fallopian tube and into the abdominal cavity.
The endometrium breaking off from menstruation then spread to other parts of the body – but often to surrounding organs like the intestines, the urinary bladder, the fallopian tube and the ovaries.
Doctors often tell patients to consider pregnancy “because pregnancy means there is no menstrual cycle for at least 9 months and therefore it suppresses the condition,” Dr Omanwa says.
It is possible, he adds, that successive pregnancies may actually end up suppressing the disease for good.
Endometriosis may cause infertility in two ways: by blocking or distorting the fallopian tubes, and second, by creating inflammation that can adversely affect the function of the ovary, egg, fallopian tubes or uterus.
According to CDC, endometriosis affects 1 out of every 10 women worldwide.