LONDON — Women with endometriosis--a leading cause of infertility in which tissue from the womb lining grows elsewhere in the body--are much more likely to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and allergies, new research has found.
The study, published last week in the journal Human Reproduction, is the first to document something that has been noticed by many women with the painful disorder.
The researchers urged doctors to look for the other diseases in women when diagnosing endometriosis, which afflicts between 8% and 10% of women of childbearing age.
The new research suggests an immune system abnormality may underlie all these conditions, said Warren Nothnick, a University of Kansas professor of obstetrics and gynecology who was not connected with the study.
"What is the underlying factor, the commonality, between all of these diseases? If we can find out what the one factor is, or group of factors, we can target that and hopefully come up with a way to treat not only the endometriosis, but also some of the other diseases," Nothnick said.
His own work, as well as that of other scientists, suggests that the malfunctioning of certain immune system chemicals called cytokines may be a common link.
Assuming endometriosis occurs before the other diseases, it may also be possible one day to spare women with endometriosis from developing some of the additional diseases, Nothnick said.
The study, conducted by scientists at the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, George Washington University and the Endometriosis Assn., involved 3,680 women with endometriosis.