Endometriosis is more painful for obese women, study finds | Society

Obese women are more likely to have severe endometriosis, a misunderstood condition that affects one in 10 women, an Australian study has found.

The study of 500 women with surgically confirmed endometriosis found women with a healthy body mass index were more likely to have endometriosis, but obese women were more likely to have severe forms of the condition which causes chronic pain and inflammation.

The average disease severity score of obese women was two times higher than that of healthy weight women, according to the findings published in the Journal of Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain Disorders.

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The lead researcher, Dr Sarah Holdsworth-Carson, from the Royal Women’s hospital and the University of Melbourne, said the research corrected the idea that only “skinny” women get endometriosis.

“There’s been a social dogma that’s arisen that has basically started to describe endometriosis as a disease of skinny women,” she said.

That was not the case and endometriosis should not be excluded among overweight or obese women presenting with symptoms.

The findings also add to evidence the condition is linked to a woman’s metabolism.

“It is too soon to say that lifestyle changes may reduce endometriosis severity or frequency in obese women as more research is necessary to investigate the long-term effects of obesity on women with endometriosis,” Dr Holdsworth-Carson said.

“But this is further evidence to support a link with metabolism, as we already know that women with endometriosis are more likely to have high cholesterol. However, we are yet to understand if that has a long-term impact on their cardiovascular health.”

Despite its prevalence, there are limited treatment options for women with endometriosis, as diagnosis usually can be made only by surgery and it can take many years before women are diagnosed.

It was hoped the new understanding of the disease would help identify the women most at risk and improve diagnosis and intervention.

“This study has important clinical applications, with surgeons now aware of the need to provide more time for surgery in obese women as they are more likely to have extensive endometriosis requiring removal,” Dr Holdsworth-Carson said.

In April the federal health minister, Greg Hunt, announced a national action plan for endometriosis to identify gaps in education among medical professionals and the wider community as well as support and care for sufferers.

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