More than 10% of American women suffer from endometriosis, a painful condition that occurs when uterine tissue grows outside the uterus, forming growths called endometrial implants. Endometriosis symptoms can be very painful and take a major toll on a woman’s quality of life.
Board certified in gynecology, Paul W. Morrison, M.D., has treated endometriosis in many women at his practice in Newburgh, Indiana, which serves the Evansville area. For most women, treatment involves medication to reduce painful symptoms or surgery to remove the endometrial implants.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for endometriosis and no known way to prevent it. However, researchers have uncovered some potential triggers. Here are five of them.
1. Menstrual flow abnormalities
In normal menstruation, the thick lining of your uterus is shed, leaving your body through your vagina. In rare cases, though, the flow of the lining material can reverse.
Instead of leaving your body through your vagina, the tissue can move backwards through the fallopian tubes and into other parts of your body. When this tissue embeds itself in other areas, it forms the endometrial implants that cause painful symptoms.
Other menstrual flow abnormalities, such as a cycle shorter than 27 days or heavy periods lasting more than 7 days, can also increase your risk of developing endometriosis.
2. Immune system issues
Even if menstrual fluid flows backwards, your immune system can still prevent the development of implants. When your immune system detects abnormal tissue “invading” another area of your body, special immune cells activate, attacking the abnormal tissue and destroying it before it has a chance to become embedded.
But, if you have a problem with your immune system — for instance, an autoimmune disease or cancer — your immune system may not activate the way it’s supposed to, which could increase your risks of developing endometriosis. Conversely, endometriosis may also increase your risk of developing autoimmune diseases.
3. Genetic factors
Although specific genes associated with endometriosis haven’t been identified (yet), scientists do know that women who have a family history of endometriosis are more likely to develop the condition themselves. Specifically, if your mother, sister, or daughter has endometriosis, you have a higher risk of developing it as well.
4. Hormonal factors
Menstruation is controlled by the hormone estrogen, and fluctuations in estrogen are also associated with endometriosis symptoms. Research is looking into whether problems with estrogen production or distribution may play a role in increasing the risk of developing endometriosis as well.
5. Prior belly surgery
If you’ve had abdominal surgery — especially surgery involving your uterus, such as a C-section delivery — you may also have an increased risk of developing endometriosis. That’s because during surgery, some of your uterine tissue may be inadvertently moved to another part of your body, which could lead to the development of endometrial implants.
Although there’s no cure for endometriosis, Dr. Morrison can help you manage and relieve its symptoms with a custom treatment plan. To learn more, call 812-490-5200 or book an appointment online with the practice of Paul W. Morrison, M.D., today.