How dangerous is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a disorder in which the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis.

In severe cases, endometrial tissue may spread beyond your pelvic region.

Endometriosis can cause pain — sometimes severe — especially during your menstrual period. Fertility problems also may develop.

Fortunately, effective treatments are available for endometriosis. With proper diagnosis and treatment, you can relieve your pain and improve your chances of conceiving.

Prevention of Endometriosis

There is no sure way to prevent endometriosis, but there are some things that may lower your risk.

If you have a family member with endometriosis, you may be at higher risk of the condition. You may be able to lower your risk by taking steps to reduce inflammation in your body and by avoiding exposure to environmental toxins.

Reduce inflammation

You can help reduce inflammation throughout your body by eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight. Exercise and stress-reduction techniques also may help.

Avoid toxins

Endometriosis has been linked to exposure to certain environmental toxins, such as dioxins. Dioxins are industrial chemicals that pollute the air, water and soil.

How to diagnose Endometriosis

Your doctor is likely to start with a complete medical history and a pelvic exam. If endometriosis is suspected, you may have one or more of the following tests and procedures:

Ultrasound. This imaging technique uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of your internal organs. During a transvaginal ultrasound, a small device is inserted into your vagina. The device emits sound waves that are used to create an image of your uterus and ovaries.

Laparoscopy. During this minimally invasive procedure, your doctor inserts a thin, lighted instrument called a laparoscope through an incision in your abdomen. The laparoscope allows your doctor to see inside your pelvis and look for signs of endometriosis.

Laparotomy. This is a major surgery in which your doctor makes a large incision to examine your pelvic organs and look for signs of endometriosis. A laparotomy is usually only done if you have severe endometriosis or if other diagnostic procedures haven’t confirmed the diagnosis.

Biopsy. In some cases, your doctor may remove a small sample of tissue during laparoscopy or laparotomy for laboratory analysis.