Women who suffer with endometriosis may have a higher risk of developing heart disease, a new study suggests.
Endometriosis is a condition in which the lining of the womb - the endometrium - grows outside the womb. Symptoms include painful periods, pain during sex and difficulty getting pregnant. It is estimated to affect up to 10% of women, however exact figures are unknown as surgery is required to diagnose it.
Some women with intensely painful periods and pelvic pain may not even realise they have it.
US researchers reviewed the medical records of over 116,000 women. Among these, almost 12,000 were diagnosed with endometriosis.
During a 20-year follow-up period, the researchers found that women with endometriosis were 1.35 times more likely to require a procedure to open up blocked arteries compared to women without the condition.
Women with the condition were also 1.52 times more likely to suffer a heart attack and almost two times more likely to develop angina (chest pain) compared to those without the condition.
Furthermore, the study found that women with endometriosis who were under the age of 40 were three times more likely to suffer a heart attack, develop chest pain or need treatment for blocked arteries compared to women without endometriosis who were the same age.
"Women with endometriosis should be aware that they may be at higher risk for heart disease compared to women without endometriosis, and this increased risk may be highest when they are young," the researchers commented.
They suggested that the surgical treatment of endometriosis, such as removal of the womb, may partly account for the increased risk of heart disease, as a surgically-induced menopause prior to natural menopause can increase this risk.
However, they appealed to all women with this condition to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
"It is important for women with endometriosis, even young women, to adopt heart-healthy lifestyle habits, be screened by their doctors for heart disease, and be familiar with symptoms because heart disease remains the primary cause of death in women."
Details of these findings are published in the journal, Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
For more information on endometriosis, visit the website of the Endometriosis Association of Ireland here
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