Obesity linked to severe endometriosis

Sarah Wiedersehn

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

The study of 500 women found women with a healthy body mass index were more likely to have endometriosis, however obese women were more likely to have severe forms of the painful condition that affects the reproductive organs.

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.

Lead researcher Dr Sarah Holdsworth-Carson, from the Royal Women's Hospital and University of Melbourne says the research rejects suggestions only 'skinny' women get endometriosis and adds to evidence the condition is linked to 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 only be made by surgery and it can take many years before women are diagnosed.

It's hoped the new insight will 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 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.