Australian scientists have discovered a genetic link between endometriosis, depression and certain stomach diseases. Their research was published in Human Genetics.
What is endometriosis
Endometriosis is one of the most common gynecological diseases. It affects 5-10% of women of childbearing age. With this disease, the cells that line the inside of the uterus appear in organs where they should not be. Most often these are the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder and other pelvic organs. Every month, like the endometrium in the uterus, foci of endometriosis bleed under the influence of hormones, causing internal hemorrhages and inflammation.
The most common symptoms of endometriosis are pain in the lower abdomen and menstrual irregularities. This condition is often accompanied by infertility.
Endometriosis and depression
It is known that the risk of developing depression in women during their lifetime is twice as high as in men. Depression and anxiety are the most common problems that accompany endometriosis. The authors of the new study indicate that assessment of one's own physical and mental state with endometriosis is worse than with cancer and HIV infection. In women with endometriosis, depression leads to suicide 20 times more often than in those who do not suffer from it, scientists write.
According to a 2019 systemic review, the association between endometriosis and depression is predominantly driven by chronic pain. However, Australian scientists point out that both depression and endometriosis are complex disorders: for example, genes are known that increase the risk of developing each of these diseases. In the new study, they sought to find out whether there is a genetic link between these conditions.
To discover new links between endometriosis and depression, geneticists from the Queensland University of Technology used data from a large genetic study that included 208 thousand people of different nationalities. Of these, 17 thousand suffered from endometriosis.
Scientists have discovered 22 common gene variants that occur in women with both depression and endometriosis, and may be related to the development of both diseases. It turns out that many of these genes play a role in the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract.
Further research showed that depression and endometriosis have a genetic connection not only with each other, but also with gastrointestinal pathologies – gastroesophageal reflux (the main cause of heartburn) and gastritis.
What does this mean?
According to scientists, these data indicate that women who suffer from certain stomach diseases and depression, it makes sense to be screened for endometriosis. In turn, you need to remember that endometriosis is often accompanied by other diseases. This is of particular importance, if only because the diagnosis of endometriosis, even in developed countries, sometimes takes up to 10 years.
Thus, if the same genes are involved in certain aspects of the development of depression and endometriosis, they (as well as the processes themselves) may become targets for the treatment of both diseases. Scientists do not rule out that effective treatment of stomach diseases and depression can alleviate the course of endometriosis. These assumptions require verification by large studies.