Medically Reviewed by Dr. Melissa Thompson, PT, DPT, MTC
Dr. Thompson is board certified and the owner of Louisiana Pelvic Health. Her expertise is in alleviating bladder, bowel, and sexual pain symptoms during pregnancy, postpartum, and throughout a woman's life.
Is endometriosis an autoimmune disease? If you’re experiencing symptoms of chronic pain and inflammation in your reproductive organs or if your menstrual cycle is particularly painful, you might be on the hunt for the answer to this question.
Endometriosis and autoimmune disorders are closely related, which is why endometriosis is often considered to be an autoimmune disease. Because of the common chronic characteristics found in both types of illnesses, endometriosis can easily be mistaken as an autoimmune disease.
A quick search might lead you to believe that you are experiencing common symptoms of an autoimmune illness. With this guide, you’ll learn why medical professionals are not hard-pressed to categorize endometriosis as an autoimmune disorder and what you can do to help relieve some painful symptoms.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition that occurs when the tissue present in the uterine lining forms in abnormal places outside of the uterine cavity. The tissue, or “nodules”, make themselves at home in the fallopian tubes, behind the uterus, or on and under the ovaries.
One in ten women are affected by endometriosis. If you experience severe pain during or after intercourse, before or during your menstrual cycle, or abnormal inflammation and bloating near your reproductive organs, you might be one of the women touched by endometriosis.
This disease is common among women in their 30’s and 40’s and can cause hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle, oftentimes making it difficult for women to become pregnant.
In addition to fertility problems, endometriosis can be fearfully painful as it causes the tissue to become inflamed while it grows and thickens in a foreign place.
Endometriosis and Other Related Conditions
Women who suffer from endometriosis experience a variety of symptoms that may be related to various autoimmune conditions due to the similarity of symptoms between the two illnesses.
Commonly, chronic pain, inflammation, fatigue, and lack of activity are all symptoms present in both endometriosis and many autoimmune diseases.
It is not guaranteed that women with endometriosis will contract other related conditions. However, the mental and physical symptoms of endometriosis do put women at risk for developing additional conditions.
Is Endometriosis an Autoimmune Disorder?
Medical professionals do not classify endometriosis as an autoimmune disorder mostly because there is no definite cause of the disorder to justify placing it purely into this category.
Although endometriosis has inflammatory symptoms that throw off the balance of the immune system, endometriosis is not considered an autoimmune disorder.
However, another question remains.
Is endometriosis related to autoimmune diseases? Absolutely, yes.
If It’s Not… Then Is Endometriosis Related To Autoimmune Diseases?
The medical world has not classified endometriosis as an autoimmune disorder, but there are reasons to believe that endometriosis is closely related to various autoimmune diseases.
An autoimmune disease is described as an allergic reaction to your body’s tissue.
We might mistake endometriosis as an autoimmune disease because it leaves the body in extreme pain as the tissue that belongs inside of the uterine lining makes its way out. This allows us to make the connection of endometriosis to other autoimmune diseases.
Although we cannot perfectly place endometriosis into the category of an autoimmune disease, women who suffer from this illness are put at an increased chance of contracting a variety of possible autoimmune disorders.
Endometriosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Endometriosis and rheumatoid arthritis are both conditions with a similar characteristic of chronic inflammation.
If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, you likely experience painful and swollen joints and internal organs.
Similarly, women who suffer from endometriosis experience chronic pain, specifically with their reproductive organs.
It is also true that rheumatoid arthritis is more prevalent in women because its risk is increased when hormonal and reproductive factors are present.
There is a simple connection between endometriosis and rheumatoid arthritis because of the inflammation and pain caused by each illness. But the two can also be related because they follow an important similar specific treatment plan suggestion:
Endometriosis and Lupus
Endometriosis and a specific type of lupus, systemic lupus erythematosus, are closely linked as well. Like rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus occurs most often in women with hormonal and reproductive issues, such as endometriosis.
And just as endometriosis is most common in women of child-bearing years, this autoimmune disorder most often affects women in a similar age range of 20 to 40 years old.
Allergies And Endometriosis
Endometriosis can negatively affect women’s immune systems, putting them at higher risk for many related autoimmune diseases, however, it is only one of the many contributing factors.
Commonly, women who suffer from endometriosis are more likely to have allergies. They either have a severe family history of allergies, experience allergic reactions to medications or foods, or show symptoms of hay fever and sinus allergies.
Allergies are another form of immune disorders, which women with endometriosis are at a higher risk of experiencing due to their illness.
If You Have Endometriosis and An Autoimmune Disease, What Should You Do?
It’s been discussed that there are similar treatment plans in place for those who suffer from endometriosis and those who suffer from various autoimmune diseases, due to the similarities in the symptoms for each illness.
If you find yourself to be one of the women who unfortunately suffer from both, this handful of suggestions may help you better manage your symptoms.
At Chiavaye we do not claim to be doctors. Before you choose these treatment options, we highly recommend that you visit your doctor.
Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet:
Gain control of your diet! By taking the necessary steps to eliminate the foods that make you feel inflamed, bloated, and swollen, you’ll find that these symptoms begin to decrease.
These changes likely include cutting out wheat, gluten, soy products, and even dairy.
How Can My Diet Influence My Endometriosis & Autoimmune Symptoms?
Food is fuel and if you’re fueling your body with junk, you’ll likely feel like junk! By making the necessary changes to your diet, you should feel like you have some control over your endometriosis and any possible linked autoimmune diseases.
Eliminating foods that make you feel bloated (wheat, gluten, or dairy) should significantly reduce your symptoms of feeling inflamed and swollen. This might also contribute to better digestion, as many women with endometriosis find themselves to also be lactose intolerant.
While getting rid of the foods that make you feel worse, add in some staple things that will make you feel better.
Hydrate! It’s recommended (not just for women with endometriosis) that you drink at least half of your body weight in ounces daily.
While drinking plenty of water, fill your body with fruits and vegetables as well as hormone-free, antibiotic-free, and chemical-free proteins. These changes should leave your body feeling its best, despite your chronic endometriosis and autoimmune diseases.
Stress can play a big role in your life, whether you suffer from endometriosis or not.
By eliminating as many stressful factors as possible, you can make positive strides with your endometriosis and various autoimmune disease symptoms.
How Can Stress Influence My Endometriosis & Autoimmune Symptoms?
When stress isn’t properly managed, it can have a direct link to inflammation in the body. Chronic and uncontrolled stress causes the breakdown of tissue, which is a main source of pain for those who suffer from endometriosis and autoimmune diseases.
Find ways to eliminate stress through:
By implementing some of these suggested stress relievers into your daily life, you can lessen your chances of developing anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. There is a long-lasting loop connection between stress and the common symptoms of endometriosis and autoimmune disorders, so by getting your stress under control, you can better manage your other symptoms.
If you can gain control of your symptoms, you can have some control over your health.