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Endometriosis is a chronic condition. It occurs when tissue similar to what grows and sheds from your uterus each month during your menstrual cycle begin to grow in other areas of your body. The tissue can become inflamed and bleed, irritating the organs and tissues around them.

Endometriosis can cause a number of symptoms, including bleeding between periods, back pain, and pelvic pain. The condition may affect more than 11 percent of menstruating Americans between the ages of 15 and 44. It’s most common among those in their 30s and 40s.

Is endometriosis an autoimmune condition?

Endometriosis isn’t currently classified as an autoimmune condition, but does share some characteristics and may increase the risk of autoimmune conditions co-occurring.

Healthline

The causes of endometriosis vary and are poorly understood. Doctors still don’t know everything that can trigger this condition. Causes are a combination of factors including genetics and immune dysfunction.

Endometriosis has not yet been classified as an autoimmune condition but it may increase risk for autoimmune conditions. The inflammatory nature of endometriosis seems to trigger an imbalance in the immune system.

Our immune system protects our body from invaders, but immune systems can get out of balance. If you have an autoimmune disease, your body attacks itself, as if it were a foreign invader. Inflammation can be a part of this autoimmune response.

Having endometriosis may increase your risk for other health conditions. Some of these conditions, called comorbidities, are autoimmune conditions.

Researchers are searching for the root cause of endometriosis. It’s thought that people who have endometriosis may have abnormal immune system responses. This could either stem from endometriosis, or the condition itself may be a result of this factor. There are likely many things related to triggering this condition.

A 2019 study of 298 women found a significant correlation between endometriosis and autoimmune thyroiditis (or, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), with some less certain correlations found with other autoimmune conditions.

A few reviews of studies, including one from 2015 and another from 2019, indicated some association of endometriosis with autoimmune conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune thyroid disorder, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

But the studies reviewed were generally found to be smaller, of poorer quality, or lacking in sufficient variables, and larger cohort studies are needed for a better understanding.

In particular, more research related to the stage and severity of endometriosis and more demographic and geographically diverse studies would be helpful.

There are other comorbidities that come with endometriosis. A 2019 study found a significant correlation between endometriosis and an increased risk of vaginal infection, chronic endometritis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and surgical site infections after having a hysterectomy.

Endometriosis is a common condition. So it’s unclear whether the conditions listed are connected, or if there is simply an overlap in who’s being diagnosed with them.

Having two health conditions doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re connected. More research is needed to determine the role that endometriosis plays in the development of other health conditions.

Healthline

Some of the most documented comorbidities for endometriosis are connected to mental health. Anxiety and depression are commonly associated with people who have endometriosis. These conditions tend to occur in the months and years after an endometriosis diagnosis.

Living with chronic pain and other uncomfortable symptoms can impact the way you feel about your body. Your level of pain, how you feel about your condition, and hormonal treatment methods can all factor in to this connection.

Speak with your doctor about how you’re feeling and about symptoms of anxiety or depression. There are ways they can help, both with your endometriosis symptoms and with your emotional well-being.

Endometriosis may increase your risk for certain types of cancer. It has been associated with higher risks for two types of ovarian cancer — endometrioid and clear-cell subtypes. These are rare types of cancers, so the likelihood of developing them is small whether you have endometriosis or not.

If you’re concerned about risk, talk with your doctor. They can assess your other risk factors, such as family history, and work with you to develop a preventive screening plan.

Ovarian

The risk for the average woman developing ovarian cancer is relatively low, but it’s influenced by certain risk factors. Having endometriosis increases your chances of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Endometriosis lesions are benign, but they have been seen to have cancer-associated mutations. This doesn’t mean they’ll become cancerous, but rather that more research is needed to determine the association.

Breast

According to the National Cancer Institute, one to eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Researchers in one 2016 study found that women who have endometriosis aren’t necessarily at a higher risk.

However, you should still be mindful of breast cancer risks. Be cautious about breast cancer and take necessary precautions to make sure that if you do develop it, you catch it early. Ask your doctor for specific testing you might need.

Cervical

Some research suggests that women who have endometriosis appear to have a decreased risk of cervical cancer. Other risk factors, such as whether you’ve been diagnosed with HPV, are far more influential in predicting whether you’ll develop cervical cancer.

Skin

Out of 12 studies that tried to link endometriosis with skin cancer, seven found a clear connection. The other five couldn’t demonstrate a clear link. It’s possible that exposure to environmental toxins, which can trigger both endometriosis and skin cancer, may be the reason these two conditions seem connected.

Other cancers

Brain cancer, kidney cancer, endocrine cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma have all been studied for a connection to endometriosis, and the results are mixed.

Some studies see a strong link between these cancers and endometriosis. But others claim the evidence is weak or coincidental. More research is needed to understand if there’s a strong link between endometriosis and other kinds of cancer.

People who have endometriosis may be more susceptible to allergic reactions and asthma.

Researchers think this could be because of their immune responses to certain irritants. Those with allergies to penicillin, certain prescription medications, and allergic rhinitis have all been found to be at greater risk of having endometriosis.

Coronary artery disease and endometriosis may share a genetic background.

Oxidative stress is related to both endometriosis and cardiovascular disease. This could mean that endometriosis and cardiovascular conditions are linked.

A large 2016 study found that endometriosis was associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease. It was noted that an increase in surgeries like hysterectomy or oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) for those living with endometriosis could partially explain the association.

Endometriosis is a chronic condition that can affect your long-term health. If you have endometriosis, understanding associated conditions is an important part of living with your condition.

Researchers are continuing to uncover the causes of endometriosis and how those causes might connect with other conditions. Many of these conditions are manageable and researchers are working on new treatments every day.

If you’re concerned about your risk, talk with your doctor. They can assess your individual risk factors and help you develop a plan for screening and prevention.