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Causes - Endometriosis

The cause of endometriosis is not known. Several theories have been suggested.

Theories include:

  • genetics – the condition tends to run in families and affects people of certain ethnic groups more than others
  • metaplasia – it has been proposed that normal tissues outside the uterus can be replaced by endometrial (lining of the womb) tissue
  • retrograde menstruation – when some of the womb lining flows up through the fallopian tubes and embeds itself on the organs of the pelvis, rather than leaving the body as a period. Over time, this tissue can become inflamed and cause pain
  • immune system - there is a problem with the body's natural defence against illness and infection
  • spreading through the body in the bloodstream or lymphatic system (a series of tubes and glands that form part of the immune system)

None of these theories fully explain why endometriosis happens. It's likely the condition is caused by a combination of different things.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

Page last reviewed: 3 March 2023
Next review due: 3 March 2026

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.