The causes of endometriosis are still unknown, although theories abound. One theory suggests that during menstruation some of the tissue backs up through the fallopian tubes into the abdomen, a sort of "reverse menstruation," where it attaches and grows.
Another theory states that certain families may have predisposing genetic factors to the disease. Current research is also looking at the role of the immune system in activating cells that may secrete factors which stimulate endometriosis.
For many women, simply having a diagnosis of endometriosis brings relief. Diagnosis begins with a gynecologist evaluating a patient's medical history and conducting a complete physical examination including a pelvic exam.
A diagnosis of endometriosis can only be certain when the physician performs a laparoscopy (a minor surgical procedure in which a laparoscope, a thin tube with a lens and a light, is inserted into an incision in the abdominal wall). Using the laparoscope to see into the pelvic area, the physician can often determine the locations, extent, and size of the endometrial growths.