Period Pain Risk Factor For Endometriosis

Scientists at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) have discovered a link between extra-heavy painful period cramps that come during adolescence and young adulthood and the later development of endometriosis. The researchers at the Gynecological Cancer Laboratory affiliated with QIMR found that severe menstrual pain at a young age doubled the risk for the development of endometriosis. A secondary finding from this study is that girls who only begin menstruating after the age of 14 years have a lower risk for the condition.

The QIMR researchers analyzed data from over 500 Australian women. That makes this study among the largest to date on this subject. The scientists looked at the characteristics of the earliest female menstruation experiences in women who suffered from either moderate or severe endometriosis. This data was then compared to that generated by a control group of women who did not have endometriosis.

Menstrual Symptoms

Coauthor of the study, Dr. Christina Nagle of QIMR said that while scientists have studied the relationship between menstrual symptoms and endometriosis at length, most of these studies had their primary focus on recent menstrual experiences in sufferers of endometriosis. Nagle's is among the first of the research projects to look at factors that may have contributed to the future development of endometriosis prior to the development of any symptoms or diagnosis of the condition.

Doubled Risk

A related study performed only last year by Nagle's team discovered that overweight 10 year-old females have a doubled risk for developing endometriosis later on. Nagle says that these studies help identify the signs of a future case of endometriosis so that women who have a higher risk can receive early intervention. Such early identification should provide a more positive outcome for women suffering endometriosis.

There is as yet no known cure or cause for endometriosis, though the condition hits a significant number of women: some 10%. The condition causes severe pain and a reduction in fertility. The symptoms of endometriosis are managed with pain medications, hormone therapies, surgery, or a combination of these measures.

The data in this study was gathered at QIMR by Dr. Tanya Bell who used the information in her PhD thesis. The results of this study were published on the website for the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Endometriosis is characterized by endometrial cell growth—cells that are normally found within the uterine lining (endometrium)—in other body locations.

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