What increases my risk for endometriosis?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Although the cause for endometriosis is still unknown, researchers have pinpointed some risk factors associated with the condition. These risk factors include medical conditions that stop the flow of blood during your period, having short menstrual cycles, a family history of the condition, and endometrial cell damage. Additionally, those who are Caucasian or Asian have a greater chance of developing endometriosis. The longer you wait to have a child, the greater your risk for developing endometriosis.

Dr. Kevin W. Windom, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)
There are numerous theories on how endometriosis occurs, and depending on the theory, there are different ways that people can get endometriosis. The most common theory of how endometriosis occurs is through retrograde menstruation in which small intrauterine lining cells, instead of passing through the cervix and out the vagina with a menstrual cycle, go backwards through the fallopian tubes and implant into the peritoneal cavity. Because of this theory, patients who have very heavy menstrual cycles lasting greater than 7 days, patients who have cervical stenosis (a narrowing of the cervical opening), and patients who have abnormal uterine anatomy can have a higher chance of obtaining endometriosis.

Other theories of endometriosis is that there is a change in cells that tend to grow abnormally in the pelvis and they grow like an endometrial lining cell. This theory has been debated for numerous years but is a theory that is in place for endometriosis. If this is the case, then patients who have a genetic predisposition to endometriosis, such as a first-degree family member, they will have higher instances of endometriosis. Also, patients who have had damaged cells in their pelvis from infections or other types of abnormalities could be at higher instances for having these cells start growing like endometrial lining cells.

Smoking and other chronic diseases that can decrease a patient's immune system can also increase one's chances of getting endometriosis.

You may be at greater risk of developing endometriosis if you are of reproductive age and have risk factors such as:

  • a first-degree female relative with the condition (this increases your risk six-fold)
  • beginning menstruation before age 11
  • short monthly cycles of less than 27 days
  • heavy menstruation that lasts longer than seven days

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You might be more likely to get endometriosis if you have:

  • Never had children
  • Menstrual periods that last more than seven days
  • Short menstrual cycles (27 days or less)
  • A family member (mother, aunt, sister) with endometriosis
  • A health problem that prevents normal passage of menstrual blood flow
  • Damage to cells in the pelvis from an infection

This answer is based on source information from National Women's Health Information Center.

The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Nor does the contents of this website constitute the establishment of a physician patient or therapeutic relationship. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Your risk of developing endometriosis may increase seven- to ten-fold if you have a first-degree relative with endometriosis. As many as 70 to 80 percent of women who suffer from chronic pelvic pain may be found to have endometriosis. Of women who are suffering from infertility, 38 percent may be found to have endometriosis. There's a 6 to 10 percent risk of endometriosis for all women. Endometriosis has not been found to be related to ethnicity.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.