Stressed Out by Endometriosis
Endometriosis is costing a lot of people a lot of time and money, and it's making them miserable, too. The incapacitating condition affects millions of women to the tune of around 1.6 billion dollars a year. The disease occurs when endometrial tissue grows in places outside the cavity of the womb and implants itself on the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, or even in the intestinal tract. The result is severe and chronic pain, dyspareunia (pain during intercourse), and dysmenhorrhea (painful periods). The chronic pain associated with the disease keeps women from productive and healthy lifestyles.
Endometriosis sufferers report high levels of stress resulting from the impact of their painful symptoms on every part of their lives, such as on their family and personal relationships, and on their ability to perform their work duties. Painful intercourse can have a deleterious effect on what would otherwise be healthy sexual relationships. The resultant discord leads to even greater stress.
It appears that stress management courses are helpful in teaching women with endometriosis how to handle the stress that results from their ailment. What is not yet know is whether stress might be a risk factor for endometriosis or whether it may exacerbate the effects of the disease.
To this end, a new study is underway that aims to discover the correlation between stress and the symptoms of endometriosis. The results, up to now, offer the first proof that stress has a negative impact on the progression of the disease, and this seems to be due to an immune system response.
Researchers in the study induced endometriosis in 7 female rats. Half of the rats underwent stress-inducing swimming trials over a period of 10 days. This represented an ongoing situation out of the control of the animal subjects. A control group was given endometriosis but did not swim, and a second control group didn't have the disease or undergo the swimming tests.
Two months after endometriosis was induced in the rats, researchers slaughtered the animals and examined them for signs of endometriotic vesicles and damage to nearby organs, such as the small intestine and colon. The scientists also looked for and assayed the enzyme known as myeloperoxidase (MPO), which is known for its connection to inflammation.
It was seen that the stressed group of rats had the longest vesicles of any of the subjects. The control group with the disease had vesicles of a shorter length, and the sham control group had no vesicles at all. The stressed group also had more damage to the colon as well as signs of inflammation to this part of the intestines, proving that stress sets off an inflammatory process.
It is hoped that the results of this study will lead more women with endometriosis to take stress management courses so as to improve their quality of life and halt the progression of their disease.