In endometriosis, tissue resembling the one that normally lines the inside of the uterus — the endometrium — grows outside the uterus. The main areas that are commonly affected are the ovaries, tissues underneath the uterus, and the fallopian tubes. However, endometriosis can also occur in other parts of the body.
How endometriosis occurs in other parts of the body
The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown. But one of the major risk factors is thought to be retrograde menstruation in which menstrual blood flows back into the fallopian tubes and pelvic cavity instead of leaving the body. Menstrual blood contains endometrial cells that attach to the pelvic wall and surrounding organs, causing endometriosis. Retrograde menstruation may also cause menstrual blood to spill into the peritoneal cavity (lining of the abdomen), displacing endometrial cells and leading to the development of endometriosis in the abdominal organs.
Endometrial cells can also travel to other parts of the body through the blood vessels or lymphatic fluid that transports immune cells. They can spread during surgery; after a procedure such as a cesarean section or a hysterectomy, endometrial cells could attach to the surgical incision and cause endometriosis in the area around the scar.
Stem cells have been proposed as another mechanism by which endometriosis may occur in other parts of the body. They are cells in the early stages of development that are able to become any cell type when they receive the relevant signal. Hormonal changes may trigger these cells in other areas of the body to transform and behave like endometrial cells, causing endometriosis in those organs.
Organs that may be affected by endometriosis
Misplaced endometrial cells follow the same cycle of growth, breakdown, and regeneration that they would in the uterus. However, they have no way of exiting the body, so they cause inflammation and lesions, resulting in endometriosis.
Some parts of the body that may be affected by endometriosis include:
- Urinary tract
- Sciatic nerves
- Areas near the lungs
Last updated: August 1, 2019
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