Research on Migraine Disease as a Risk Factor for Endometriosis

Women diagnosed with endometriosis may be twice as likely as other women to suffer migraine attacks within a year of their diagnosis.

Endometriosis is a painful, chronic disease in women characterized by the presence of tissue that is like uterine lining outside the uterus in other parts of the abdomen, such as on the outside of the uterus or fallopian tubes. More rarely, this tissue is found in other areas of the body, such as the lungs.

This tissue would naturally shred at the point in the woman's menstrual cycle when it becomes clear there is no fertilized egg to sustain with the uterine lining material. Unfortunately, since this tissue is located outside the uterus, there is nowhere for the body to shed it to.

While some risk factors for development of endometriosis have already been identified, such as early onset of puberty or pelvic pain, a new study has for the first time established that migraine disease is an independent risk factor in development of this often debilitating disease. Women with endometriosis were more likely to develop migraine and it seemed the reverse was true, too (that women with endometriosis were more likely to experience migraine disease). However, after controlling for other factors, the later was no longer a statistically significant finding. For now it seems that migraine is a risk factor for endometriosis, but not the other way around.

The relationship between these two conditions is largely unclear, but the study's author speculates the mechanism tying the two conditions together could be the activation of sensory fibers in the ectopic endometrial tissue by endometriosis, which leads to hyperactivity within the central nervous system and results in migraine attacks.

While there is no cure for endometriosis, just as with migraine, there are treatments available that can improve the patient's quality of life. These can include surgery, hormone injections or continuous use of birth control pills. Some treatments may affect a woman's fertility, but in recent years there are more options available that may allow patients to naturally conceive despite the disease.

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