Endometriosis is a common and painful disease that affects about 5.5 million women in North America and is one of the top three causes of infertility in women.

During a normal menstrual cycle, the lining of your uterus -- called the endometrium -- begins to thicken in preparation for becoming pregnant. If you don't become pregnant that month, your body sheds the endometrium during menstruation and the process starts over. In endometriosis, for reasons that researchers don't entirely understand, tissue very similar to the endometrium begins to grow outside the uterus in various places that it shouldn't. It can appear in or on the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the various structures that support the uterus, and the lining of the pelvic cavity. Sometimes, it's found in other places as well, including the cervix, vagina, rectum, bladder, bowel, and elsewhere.

The problem is that this tissue behaves like normal endometrial tissue -- it builds up and breaks down with your menstrual cycle -- but it can't be shed like normal endometrial tissue during your period. As a result, the rogue tissue causes irritation and inflammation. This buildup of tissue can prevent the eggs from getting out of the ovaries or being fertilized by sperm. It can also scar and block the fallopian tubes, preventing the egg and sperm from meeting.

In addition to fertility problems, some common signs and symptoms of endometriosis include:
Pelvic pain
Painful intercourse
Painful urination
Painful bowel movements
Severe abdominal pain
Lower back pain
Heavy periods or spotting between periods
Fatigue
Some women with endometriosis do not have symptoms.

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