Women with Endometriosis at Higher Risk for Other Diseases.




Human Reproduction

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Endometriosis is a disease where the tissue that lines the uterus (endometrial tissue) is found outside of the uterus. The tissue attaches itself on other organs and can spread over a larger area over time. It acts just like the tissue inside the uterus during the monthly menstrual cycle. Endometrial implants, as this tissue is called, may be found anywhere in the body, but are mostly found in the pelvic region.1 Often, these implants are seen on the outside of the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, or the uterus.

The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown, but it occurs almost exclusively in menstruating women. It is rarely seen in women before puberty or after menopause, or in women who are not having monthly periods. One theory that explains how these cells get outside of the uterus is called the transport theory. The transport theory says that endometrial tissue moves to and attaches itself in the abdomen and other areas of the body by something called "retrograde menstruation." This means that the lining of the uterus that is shed at the end of the monthly cycle flows upwards instead of draining out of the body normally. The transport theory also says that the tissue may spread by going through the blood vessel circulation or the lymph nodes.2

A recent study published in the journal Human Reproduction questioned if women with endometriosis are more at risk for other diseases when compared to women of the general population. A cross-sectional survey was conducted in 1998 and involved 3,680 women who had been surgically diagnosed with endometriosis. 99% of the respondents stated that they had pain, and 41% stated that they were infertile. When compared to the general population of women from previous studies, women with endometriosis were more likely to have hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, Lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis among other autoimmune disorders. Allergies and asthma were also frequently reported. The authors of this study concluded that women diagnosed with endometriosis were especially prone to have autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, allergies, and other diseases when compared to the general female population.3


1. Sagraves R, Letassy NA. Gynecologic Disorders. In: Koda-Kimble MA, Young LY, et al, eds. Applied Therapeutics, The clinical use of Drugs, 5th ed. Vancouver, Washington: Applied Therapeutics Inc; 1992:70-14 to 70-16.
2. Ridley JH. The validity of Sampson’s theory of endometriosis. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1961;62:777.
3. Sinaii N, et al. High rates of autoimmune and endocrine disorders, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and atopic diseases among women with endometriosis: a survey analysis. Hum Repr. Oct 2002;17(10):2715-24.