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Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2014 May;10(5):261-75. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2013.255. Epub 2013 Dec 24.

Endometriosis: pathogenesis and treatment.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Fondazione Cà Granda, Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Via Commenda 12, 20122 Milan, Italy.
Reproductive Sciences Laboratory, Division of Genetics and Cell Biology, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Via Olgettina 60, 20136 Milan, Italy.


Endometriosis is defined as the presence of endometrial-type mucosa outside the uterine cavity. Of the proposed pathogenic theories (retrograde menstruation, coelomic metaplasia and Müllerian remnants), none explain all the different types of endometriosis. According to the most convincing model, the retrograde menstruation hypothesis, endometrial fragments reaching the pelvis via transtubal retrograde flow, implant onto the peritoneum and abdominal organs, proliferate and cause chronic inflammation with formation of adhesions. The number and amount of menstrual flows together with genetic and environmental factors determines the degree of phenotypic expression of the disease. Endometriosis is estrogen-dependent, manifests during reproductive years and is associated with pain and infertility. Dysmenorrhoea, deep dyspareunia, dyschezia and dysuria are the most frequently reported symptoms. Standard diagnosis is carried out by direct visualization and histologic examination of lesions. Pain can be treated by excising peritoneal implants, deep nodules and ovarian cysts, or inducing lesion suppression by abolishing ovulation and menstruation through hormonal manipulation with progestins, oral contraceptives and gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists. Medical therapy is symptomatic, not cytoreductive; surgery is associated with high recurrence rates. Although lesion eradication is considered a fertility-enhancing procedure, the benefit on reproductive performance is moderate. Assisted reproductive technologies constitute a valid alternative. Endometriosis is associated with a 50% increase in the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer, but preventive interventions are feasible.

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