Endometriosis and Allergies: Is There a Connection?
Women with endometriosis are more likely to suffer from a number of autoimmune disorders.1 Allergies are one type of autoimmune condition that is more common in women with endometriosis.
Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to a non-threatening substance. The person’s body produces too much of an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). This causes the allergic reaction and symptoms such as hives, sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, and sometimes swelling of the mouth or throat. It is estimated that about 30 percent of adults in the US experience allergies.2 Studies have shown that women with endometriosis are much more likely to have allergies.
Looking at the research
One study from 2002 found that 61 percent of women with endometriosis had allergies. The percentage was even higher, 81 percent, if they had endometriosis and fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, two other autoimmune disorders.3 In a 2012 study, women with endometriosis were 4 times more likely to have a history of allergies and were significantly more likely to have a family history of allergies.4 A 2014 study also found women with endometriosis were more likely to have allergies, including seasonal allergies, allergic rhinitis, and food intolerance/sensitivities.5 Our own 3rd Annual Endometriosis In America data supports this research; It found that 54 percent of the 1,234 respondents have been diagnosed with allergies.
Could endometriosis be an autoimmune disorder?
These findings suggest some sort of connection between endometriosis and allergies. But it is not clear how they are connected or how endometriosis may be connected to other autoimmune disorders. Our Endometriosis In America data also found that many endo warriors have also been diagnosed with known autoimmune conditions, such as psoriasis (4% of survey respondents), rheumatoid arthritis (2%), Sjogren's syndrome (2%), Crohn's disease (2%), and Lupus (1%). 12% of survey takers were also diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which, like endometriosis, is not technically classified as an autoimmune condition, but has been linked to other known autoimmune conditions.
While endometriosis may (or may not) be an autoimmune condition, researchers still are not sure exactly why endometriosis develops. One theory is that the immune system in women with endometriosis is not functioning properly and does not recognize that endometrial cells are growing in the wrong location.6
More research is needed to find out why allergies and other autoimmune disorders occur more often in women with endometriosis. It could be that one is a risk factor for the other or they may share similar mechanisms and pathways in the body. The answers to these questions could help doctors to develop better tools to diagnose endometriosis and lead to new and better treatment options.1
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