THE painful womb condition endometriosis can reset a woman’s brain putting her at risk of anxiety and depression, new research suggests.
The new findings suggest that one in ten women who have the condition are at greater risk of mental health problems.
Endometriosis is a chronic condition which occurs when tissue that behaves like the lining of the womb grows outside of the womb, in areas including the ovaries, Fallopian tubes and the abdomen.
It can cause chronic pain and is often associated with a lower quality of life.
Experts at Yale University have tested whether some women develop mood disorders as a direct result of suffering from the condition, according to New Scientist.
The team injected endometrial cells into the abdomen of mice to mimic the condition and tested them 12 weeks later.
Compared to mice that were not given endometriosis they showed more signs of depression and anxiety.
Further examination of their brains found they the activity of genes related to the mental health problems had changed in regions associated with pain and mood.
“We are showing that endometriosis reprograms the brain,” said lead author, Hugh Taylor.
Other studies have shown similar results.
Researchers studied more than 200 Italian women aged between 19 and 51 who were diagnosed with the condition.
The assessed their mental health against hospital anxiety and depression standards and found that the greater their pain the greater their risk of mental health problems.
They also found that if they were not supported well by their partner their risk of anxiety and depression was higher.
“Factors other than pelvic pain can significantly affect the mental health of women with endometriosis, and the role of individual differences requires further investigation,” the study concluded.
It is not the only study that has linked the condition the poor mental health.
In fact, most advise from endometriosis charities warns that the constant pain caused by the condition can contribute to a low mood.
A research paper published earlier this year also found that “women with endometriosis are at risk for anxiety, depressive symptoms and other psychiatric disorders”.
“Psychological factors have an important role in determining the severity of symptoms, and women who suffer from endometriosis report high levels of anxiety, depression and other psychiatric disorders,” it said.
The exact cause of endometriosis isn’t known, but it’s thought it could be hereditary or due to environmental factors – namely the presence of dioxins in the environment.
It can sometimes cause damage to the Fallopian tubes or ovaries, leading to fertility problems.
Other complications can include painful ovarian cysts and adhesion – areas of tissue which can fuse organs together.
Symptoms of endometriosis can vary, but the most common include painful or heavy periods, pain during and following sex, bleeding between periods, pain in the lower abdomen and difficulty conceiving.
Endometriosis can also cause sufferers to be constantly tired, and experience discomfort when using the toilet.