Endometriosis is a common disorder that affects many women. It causes endometrial tissue to grow outside of the uterus and can cause other problems.
Unfortunately, it’s also a condition that may raise your risk for heart disease and cancer. If you have endometriosis, it’s important for you to know about the disorder and how you can manage it.
What Are the Causes of the Disorder?
An exact cause of endometriosis has still not been found. Doctors believe there are a few factors that can contribute to its development:
- Hormones: It’s believed that hormones such as estrogen and progesterone may be responsible for the development of the disorder. Estrogen is responsible for the thickening of the uterine lining in preparation for an embryo’s implantation. However, if there’s an overabundance of estrogen, it can lead to an overgrowth of endometrial tissue.
- Problems with the immune system: The immune system may be a factor in the disorder’s development. If there are problems, it can result in endometrial tissue growing and spreading beyond the uterus.
- Genetics: Genetics may play a large role in having endometriosis. If your mother or grandmother had it, your risk of getting it is greater.
- Menstrual backflow: If menstrual blood backflows, it can cause the disorder to develop.
What Are the Symptoms?
Symptoms of endometriosis vary among women who are affected. Some women experience a slew of symptoms while others never experience any at all. The condition can lead to difficulty conceiving or miscarriage if pregnancy does occur. Women who are affected may experience the following symptoms:
- Severe menstrual cramps
- Heavy menstrual flow
- Mild to severe lower abdominal pain
- Difficult bowel movements or urination during menstruation
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Spotting between periods
- Pain during intercourse
Endometriosis and Heart Disease Risk
According to a study performed by researchers from Harvard that was published in the May 2016 issue of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, women with endometriosis may be at a higher risk of heart disease. The risk is especially great for women who are under the age of 40.
The study included 116,000 participants between the ages of 25 and 42. The participants had no history of heart disease. However, the findings revealed that over the course of 20 years, around 1,500 of the women developed heart disease. Women who had endometriosis were determined to have a 52 percent higher risk for heart attacks, 91 percent higher risk of experiencing chest pains and 35 percent higher risk of needing heart surgery compared to those who don’t have the disorder.
The researchers asserted that there is a link between endometriosis and heart disease due to certain factors. Among the most notable are the chronic inflammation and bad cholesterol levels that are characteristic of the disorder. They also noted that in spite of many of the symptoms of the disorder lessening after menopause, those risk factors were still present.
The results of the study suggest that women with the disorder can do their part to lower their risk of heart disease. Consuming a healthy diet and incorporating moderate physical activity into their everyday life can help.
Disorder Linked to Certain Cancer
In addition to heart disease, the disorder has been linked to a specific type of cancer. While ovarian cancer is more prevalent in women with endometriosis, there’s also a higher risk of adenocarcinoma developing. This is a type of cancer specific to the disorder that can affect women later in life.
There is a fairly common misconception that women who have endometriosis need to have hysterectomies. In reality, this isn’t necessary unless other, non-invasive treatment options don’t help. There are two specific types of treatment that can bring relief from painful symptoms. They include the following:
- Hormonal therapies: Many women with the disorder are prescribed birth control pills to control their hormones and the overgrowth of endometrial tissue. The pill can also help lower the risk of ovarian cancer.
- Surgery: Laparoscopic surgery can be helpful in removing endometrial growths. In some cases, abdominal surgery may be needed if the condition is more severe.
Surprisingly, it has been found that getting a hysterectomy can actually increase a woman’s risk of heart disease. Conservative treatment options and living a healthy lifestyle are better in the long run.