Endometriosis is not only physically, emotionally, and mentally painful for the women who experience the disease first-hand, but it can be mentally and emotionally painful for their close female family members, too.
You’ve watched or heard of your mother, grandmother, sisters, aunts, or cousins fight through endless amounts of pain, and you find yourself wondering about the possibility this could be you.
After sleepless nights, you decide to do some research and get to the bottom of the question that has been keeping you up at night:
Is endometriosis a genetic disease?
Research remains, but science has proven that genetics is a large contributing factor to endometriosis.
How Do Endometriosis And Genetics Work?
Heredity plays a significant role in the cause of endometriosis, specifically with mothers, daughters, and grandmothers, although it is not considered to be the sole contributing factor.
Studies have determined that women with a family history of endometriosis are 5-7 times more likely to develop the disease than women without a family history, based on the inheritance of a mutation of genes.
Can endometriosis run in the family? Yes. There is a clear genetic link, however, environmental factors also play a part in women developing the painful disease.
How Does Endometriosis Work?
Endometriosis develops when the tissue inside the uterus begins to grow in abnormal places outside of the uterine cavity, like in the fallopian tubes or around the ovaries. It is most common in women between the ages of 20-40 years old and is characterized by heavy menstrual cycles, pain before or during a menstrual cycle, pain during or after intercourse, chronic fatigue, and pain and inflammation around the reproductive organs.
When the tissue begins to grow where it does not belong, it causes hormonal changes as the tissue builds up and then breaks down outside of the uterine cavity. This building up and breaking down of the tissue is what leads to inflammation, swelling, and chronic pain around a woman’s reproductive organs.
Although it is still unknown what exactly causes endometriosis, researchers and medical professionals do know that endometriosis does have a genetic predisposition.
How Do Genetics Work?
Genetics is what allows humans to understand their qualities, traits, personalities, looks, and predispositions to certain health issues.
Genes, the instructions for building a unique you, are grouped into pairs of chromosomes that we get from each of our parents - one set from mom and one from dad.
When combined, most humans have a full set of 46 chromosomes. These determine our genetic makeup and are the grounds for the type of person that we become, including what illnesses we might likely develop.
Endometriosis Genetic Disposition Explained
Endometriosis has a genetic disposition, which is why some women are more likely to get it than others.
The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown, but through studies of familial patterns and endometriosis, and the genetic analysis of first-degree relatives, medical professionals know that endometriosis and genetics are closely related.
If a first, second, or third-degree family member suffers from endometriosis, you are not automatically guaranteed to develop the disease as well.
However, women with family members with endometriosis should take any possible symptoms seriously and seek medical attention should they experience signs of endometriosis.
Other Contributing Factors of Endometriosis
Genetics has proven to play a significant role in the development of endometriosis, but if you don’t have a family history of this chronic disease, you’re not automatically in the clear.
There are a handful of other factors that can contribute to developing endometriosis:
- Characteristics of the menstrual cycle
- Immune system disorders
- Abdominal surgery
Can I Reduce My Risk of Endometriosis?
By staying as healthy as possible to help balance out your hormones, you can help reduce your risk of developing endometriosis. Consider making some changes in your lifestyle to keep your hormones at natural levels.
- Eat whole foods and cut back on gluten, soy, and dairy.
- Consider a birth control with less estrogen.
- Cut back on caffeine.
- Exercise regularly.
- Drink less alcohol.
If My Mom Has Endometriosis, Will I?
Many women who grow up with a familial history of endometriosis wonder about the same question:
“If my mom has endometriosis, will I?”
Although you are at an increased risk of becoming affected by endometriosis, It is not guaranteed that you will develop the disease.
Scientific Article 1: Genetics and Genomics of Endometriosis
Several studies have pursued the link between genetics and endometriosis, attempting to prove that endometriosis is a genetic disorder. The findings have proven to be more complex than a straight simple gene connection.
It is believed through research that environmental factors also have a big part in women developing endometriosis. These environmental factors, paired with the possible combination of multiple genes inherited through family, put women with a family history of endometriosis at an increased risk of also developing the disease.
Overall, despite the fact that environmental factors do play a role, there are increased findings of endometriosis in first and second-degree relatives of women affected by endometriosis.
Scientific Article 2: Advances in the genetics of endometriosis
Research has found that there is a definite link between genetics and endometriosis with a handful of studies mentioned here noting that endometriosis can run in the family.
Although there is no hard and fast way of knowing the likelihood of inheriting endometriosis, it has been determined that women with first or second degree family members affected by the disease are at a higher risk of developing endometriosis themselves.
Most importantly, the findings of the relationship between genetics and endometriosis can allow women to be diagnosed at an earlier stage or younger age if they know they are more susceptible to developing the disease, and allow medical professionals to better treat their form of the illness.
Scientific Article 3: Endometriosis-associated Maternal Pregnancy Complications
Many women are concerned about their chances of developing endometriosis if there is a family history of the disease.
Women with increased chances of endometriosis, or women who already have the disorder, worry about their risks of complications during pregnancy.
Infertility with endometriosis is possible, but many women also have successful pregnancies despite their struggle with endometriosis.
Oftentimes, the symptoms of endometriosis fade during pregnancy, but likely return after the baby is born.
Despite the possibility of symptoms lessening, endometriosis is responsible for a handful of complications that may occur during pregnancy.
The second half of pregnancy and labor can be the scariest for women with endometriosis. It is during this time that risks increase, including possible spontaneous hemorrhaging or uterine rupture, among a handful of other complications.
Endometriosis affects one in ten American women. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for endometriosis, but these four tips and tricks can help you to manage your symptoms and lessen the painful side effects.