Endometriosis is a disease of reproductive age characterized by chronic pelvic pain and infertility. Its pathogenesis is complex and still partially unexplained. However, there is increasing evidence of the role of chronic inflammation, immune system dysregulation, and oxidative stress in its development and progression. The latter appears to be involved in multiple aspects of the disease. Indeed, disease progression sustained by a hyperproliferative phenotype can be related to reactive oxygen species (ROS) imbalance, as numerous experiments using drugs to counteract hyperproliferation have shown in recent years. Chronic pelvic pain is also associated with cell function dysregulation favoring chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, specifically involving macrophages and mast cell activation. Moreover, there is increasing evidence of a role for ROS and impaired mitochondrial function not only as deleterious effectors of the ovarian reserve in patients with endometriomas but also in terms of oocyte quality and, hence, embryo development impairment. Targeting oxidative stress looks to be a promising strategy to both curb endometriotic lesion progression and alleviate endometriosis-associated symptoms of chronic pain and infertility. More investigations are nevertheless needed to develop effective therapeutic strategies for clinical application.
Keywords: antioxidants; chronic pain; endometriosis; hyperalgesia; infertility; iron overload; macrophages; oxidative stress.