In medicine, endometriomas are a type of ovarian cyst. Ovarian cysts are sacs of fluid within the ovary of a woman. Endometriomas occur when a piece of membrane from the inside of a woman's uterus is taken up into an ovary and grows there to form an ovarian cyst. These cysts are also called endometrial cysts, or sometimes chocolate cysts, due to the brown appearance that occurs when these cysts have grown inside the ovary for a long period. The brown color is due to the presence of old, clotted blood that is suspended in the fluid inside the cyst.
Ovarian endometriomas typically occur in women who suffer from a condition called endometriosis. In endometriosis, cells from the lining of the womb move around and form deposits in areas of tissue where they do not normally belong. This can include the fallopian tubes, the bladder, and the intestines. Endometrial deposits from endometriosis are, however, most common in the ovaries, and here they often lead to the formation of these cysts.
Symptoms of this condition may include intense ovarian pain, infertility, and heavy menstrual periods, often with the presence of large blood clots. Estimates of the frequency of the disease range from five percent to ten percent, and may be present in up to 50% of women who have known fertility problems. These cysts most commonly occur in women of reproductive age, although it is known to occur, more rarely, in post-menopausal women.
Endometriomas treatment may be either in the form of surgery, or using drugs. Surgery is often required for the removal of an endometrioma, if fertility is to be preserved. This usually consists of laparoscopic surgery, where a telescopic device is inserted into the patient's abdominal region through a small incision below the belly button. In such surgery, a doctor normally aims to remove the cyst, or cysts, from the ovary. This can provide fast relief from pain, and potentially the return of normal fertility. Laser surgery is also sometimes used to cauterize ovarian cysts, but this method tends to remove only the surface of the cyst, and incomplete healing may result.
Medical treatment using drugs, is usually only considered a satisfactory approach if the patient is not attempting to conceive. The drugs used for treatment are usually hormones that prevent the patient from ovulating. This in turn tends to reduce the proliferation of uterine cells, making the recurrence of endometriomas much less likely.