Promoting reproductive health is an important element of NICHD's mission. Gaining a better understanding of endometriosis—its diagnosis, treatment, causes, and symptoms—is a key aim of the Institute's research on this and other reproductive health problems that cause pain and contribute to infertility.
NICHD research goals related to endometriosis include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Better ways to diagnose the disease. Currently, surgery is the only way to diagnose endometriosis definitively. NICHD researchers are seeking less invasive ways, including biomarkers and imaging technology, to determine with equal certainty whether a woman has this condition.
- Better treatments for the disease and its symptoms. There is currently no cure for endometriosis, and even the most invasive surgical treatments don't provide definite relief. NICHD research focuses on the two most common symptoms, pain and infertility.
- Although painkillers can treat milder pain, many women find relief from severe pain only with hormone treatments or surgery, and sometimes that relief is only temporary. A better understanding of how the disease is related to pain is crucial to developing more effective pain treatments.
- Even though among women with fertility problems, endometriosis may occur in as many as 50%, researchers still do not know how endometriosis causes infertility. Understanding the underlying mechanisms by which endometriosis decreases fertility will help in developing ways to improve fertility in women who have endometriosis
- The causes of endometriosis. The exact cause or causes of endometriosis remain unknown, making development of better treatments for and ways to prevent the disease more difficult. NICHD research examines inflammation, epigenetics, genetics, hormonally active environmental contaminants, and other mechanisms as possible causes.