What is Endometriosis? Endometriosis is a disease that affects girls and women during their menstrual years. Basically with endometriosis, the uterine lining (endometrium) moves outside the uterus and builds up in other parts the body, mostly in the area around the uterus. This can affect how the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the other pelvic organs work. Wherever it starts building up, this endometrial tissue starts to act like the endometrium. This means that when hormones cue the endometrium to build up during the menstrual cycle, the misplaced endometrial tissue goes through the same process. So when it's time for menstruation, the endometrial tissue "bleeds." But since the tissue isn't in the uterus, the blood never leaves the body. This can lead to very bad pain, scarring and, even infertility. The symptoms of endometriosis can be really severe or mild. The main symptom is pain, and the level of pain doesn't seem to have much to do with how serious a case of endometriosis. Women with a slight case of it may experience more pain than do others with severe cases. The specific symptoms may include: dysmenorrhea (pain during menstruation) pain at ovulation (mid-cycle) pain during sexual intercourse heavy periods spotting How do you get it? No one's exactly sure why endometriosis happens —but it does seem to be somewhat hereditary. In fact, if your mother or sister had it, your risk is doubled. Hormones also play a part —higher estrogen levels and heavy periods increase risk. Finally, ethnicity is a factor: White women are at a higher risk than African American women. Because symptoms of endometriosis can be confused with other problems, like ovarian cysts, the disease can sometimes be hard to diagnose or identify. For an accurate diagnosis, a woman needs to have a pelvic exam and probably a laparoscopy, where a small incision is made below the belly button and a laparoscope (a narrow, lighted tube) is inserted. Then the doctor can examine the uterus, ovaries, and surrounding areas. How do you treat it? Standard treatments for endometriosis usually start with the first step listed below, and go through the next steps if necessary. Step 1: Taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen. Step 2: Staying on birth control pills continuously for at least three months. Step 3: Taking a medication (called GNRH-agonist), which inhibits ovarian hormone production —this can help "dry up" the endometriosis Step 4: Laparoscopic surgery — A small incision is made in the lower abdomen and a tube with a viewing instrument is used to look around. If endometriosis is seen, it can be removed and/or "burned" away. How can I avoid it? While there is no way to avoid endometriosis, there are several factors that reduce risk: Lifestyle —Low body weight may reduce risk by decreasing estrogen levels Contraceptive Use —Oral contraceptives may reduce risk Obstetric History —Pregnancy and breast feeding reduce risk Treatment History —Prior medical/surgical treatment reduces risk Wondering what is endometriosis? Get helpful information and tips at BeingGirl.com.