Fibromyalgia continues to be an elusive condition for many health care professionals for a variety of reasons. To begin, many fibromyalgia symptoms mirror those of other conditions. In addition, the causes of fibromyalgia still remain largely unknown. The good news is that with increasing research into the study of this painful condition, light is being shed on these and other as yet unanswered questions about fibromyalgia syndrome.
In fact, recent studies have shown that women who have endometriosis, a condition in which endometrial lining is found outside of the womb ï¿½ are more likely to develop fibromyalgia. But exactly what is endometriosis and how is it associated with fibromyalgia?
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis occurs when the skin tissue that lines the uterus (endometrium), grows at a site outside of the womb, most commonly on the ovaries, the back of the uterus, or the ligamentous supports that hold the uterus in its normal position. It may also be found on the thin lining of the pelvic organs (the peritoneum), on the fallopian tubes, between the vagina and rectum, in or on the bladder, in abdominal scars from previous surgery. It can even be found in remote locations such as the lungs.
Each month when you have a period, the tissue undergoes hormonal changes. However, since these changes are experienced outside of the womb, they can lead to cyclical swelling, stretching of tissues, inflammation and scarring. This can cause acute pelvic pain, the most common symptoms of endometriosis, and eventually can lead to chronic pain, even in the absence of a period.
In addition, monthly swelling of the endometrial tissue can lead to the inflammation of nearby tissue and discomfort secondary to the release of irritant chemicals such as prostaglandins, interleukins, or tumor necrosis factor that come from the endometrial tissue. This irritation produces symptoms of pelvic pressure or bowel bloating. Endometriosis has also been linked to infertility issues.
What is the Connection Between Fibromyalgia and Endometriosis?
In 2002, researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the George Washington University, and the Endometriosis Association, conducted a study that was designed to analyze the association between having endometriosis and other immune system disorders.
They analyzed a survey conducted by the Endometriosis Association, in which 3,680 women stated they had been surgically diagnosed with endometriosis, to see how many would go on to be diagnosed with other types of disorders. What they discovered is that women with this condition were significantly more likely to have other autoimmune disorders.
In fact, they found the women were over one hundred times more likely to develop chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and more than twice as likely to experience fibromyalgia than the general American female population. In addition, of the more than 20 percent who had more than one other disease, 31 percent of those had either fibromyalgia or CFS.
Although the researchers were unable to confirm why these conditions appear to be related, they are now encouraging doctors to consider endometriosis when evaluating their patients for either CFS or fibromyalgia.