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Cause of Endometriosis

By Jacqueline Harris

5.5 million women will suffer from endometriosis at some point during their lifetime. Most of these cases are diagnosed while the woman is in her twenties. Endometriosis is a common and painful condition that affects the female reproductive system. It is the leading cause of pelvic pain in women. The pain is a result of tissue, the endrometrium, which grows in other parts of the abdominal cavity. This tissue can grow and attach itself to the outside of the uterus, the ovaries, the intestines, the bladder, colon and other abdominal organs. If the condition is left untreated, the endometrial tissue can even work its way up to the lungs and the arms.

The menstrual cycle plays a key role in the cause of endometriosis. Doctors do know that endometriosis is directly affected by the hormone levels experienced by a woman during her menstrual cycle. Because of this, women who are in menopause or have not started their menstrual cycle are unlikely to suffer from endometriosis. Also, endometriosis is less pronounced when hormone levels are more constant, such as when a woman is pregnant or is taking certain prescribed medications.

One of the most common questions asked when a woman is diagnosed with endometriosis is, "What is the cause of endometriosis?" Unlike other medical conditions, medicine does not provide us with any clear cut answers. However, there are two leading theories that researchers believe may explain the cause of endometriosis.

Both theories involve something known as retrograde menstrual flow. This occurs when the natural menstrual flow, instead of flowing forward, flows backwards. The endometrial cells, instead of leaving the body, are deposited on the reproductive organs. Once the endometrial cells attach to these organs, they begin to grow and respond to hormones in the same way they did while in the uterus. This growth causes distortion and scarring in the reproductive system.

The other theory indicates that retrograde menstruation irritates the normal cells found around the ovaries and the surrounding area. Once these cells are irritated, they turn into endometrial cells that grow just like normal endometrial cells. Another version of this theory indicates that infection may also play a key part in irritating these cells, resulting in the change.

One theory regarding the cause of endometriosis is based on genetics. Some researchers believe some women are more likely to develop endometriosis because of their family history. These researchers believe there may be a gene that carries endometriosis. However, this theory has not been proven.

Another theory suggests that endometriosis is a congenital condition that lies dormant until menstruation. In this theory, it is believed that this extra tissue is a result of fetal development that remains in the reproductive system.

Researchers are currently working on finding the cause of endometriosis. They predict that, in the coming decade, they will be able to definitively pinpoint the cause or causes of endometriosis. At this point, they predict they will be able to find more successful ways to treat endometriosis.