Autoimmune Disease More Likely with Endometriosis (Reuters Health)
February 26, 2010
By Kathleen Doheny
SAN DIEGO, Feb 26 (Reuters Health) – Women with endometriosis, in which tissue normally found inside the uterus begins to grow elsewhere in the body, are more likely than women without the condition to suffer from autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, according to survey findings presented here Monday. The researchers found that women with endometriosis were also more likely to have asthma and allergies, to have abnormally low thyroid function and to have either chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia, National Institutes of Health research fellow Ninet Sinaii reported at the VIII World Congress on Endometriosis, sponsored by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
“While other studies have shown there may be some autoimmune dysregulation in women with endometriosis, this is probably the first population-based, epidemiological study” to look at the issue, Sinaii said.
Sinaii and colleagues from the NIH and George Washington University in Washington, DC, polled 3,680 women with surgically diagnosed endometriosis, asking them if they had ever been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, an endocrine disorder, allergies, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. The women ranged in age from 14 to 89, and their average age was about 36.
“The thing that gives this study statistical power is the sample size,” Sinaii noted. “Our hypothesis was, if so many studies have shown autoimmune dysregulation (in women with endometriosis), it makes sense that we would also see other autoimmune diseases.”
The team speculated that the fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue they found among the survey respondents might be related to the pain caused by endometriosis. More than 98% of the women surveyed reported pelvic pain, and 41% reported infertility.
The results: 12% of the women surveyed also had an autoimmune disorder such as lupus or multiple sclerosis, while less than 2% of women in the general population have either disease. And 42% of the women with endometriosis had underactive thyroid glands, versus less than 5% of women in the general population. Asthma affected 12% of the women with endometriosis, but strikes only 5% of women overall. Sixty-one percent of the endometriosis patients suffered from allergies, versus 18% of women overall.
Chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, though not considered autoimmune diseases, were also more common among women with endometriosis; 31% had either condition, while 4% of women overall have fibromyalgia and less than 1% have chronic fatigue syndrome.
More than 5 million women in the US and Canada have endometriosis, according to the Endometriosis Association, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit research and education organization that supported the research. When the tissue begins growing outside its normal site, for example along the fallopian tubes, there can be chronic pelvic pain, disabling menstrual periods, pain during sex, and infertility. Treatments include surgery, hormones and pain medicines.