Study Shows Endometriosis Raises Stroke Risks
September 1, 2022
According to a study recently published in the American Heart Association’s (AHA) medical journal Stroke, patients with a history of endometriosis may face higher stroke risks. Strokes are a leading cause of death in the United States, claiming one life every three and a half minutes. In light of this new research, the AHA is urging medical professionals to advise their patients with endometriosis on ways they can effectively address additional cardiovascular risk factors.
What is Endometriosis?
Approximately one in ten women of childbearing age are affected by endometriosis. Per the Mayo Clinic, the condition is a painful disorder in which tissue that is like the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside of it. Endometriosis usually involves the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining of the pelvis. The condition causes the endometrial tissue to behave in the same way it would as if it were inside the uterus: it thickens, breaks down and bleeds during each menstrual cycle. However, unlike the tissue that lines the uterus, endometrial tissue outside of the uterus has no way to exit the body, so it becomes trapped. The Mayo Clinic reports that some of the most common symptoms that individuals with endometriosis experience are:
- Dysmenorrhea (painful periods). Extreme pelvic pain and cramping may begin several days before and extend into your menstrual period. Low back pain and abdominal pain may also occur
- Pain with bowel movements and/or urination
- Pain during or after intercourse
- Excessive bleeding. Patients with endometriosis sometimes experience heavy menstrual periods or intermenstrual bleeding, or bleeding between periods
- Other signs and symptoms, such as diarrhea, fatigue, constipation, bloating, or nausea (particularly during menstrual periods)
Not only does endometriosis cause severe pain in patients, but it can also lead to endometriomas, or uterine cysts, adhesions, a build-up of scar tissue and fertility issues. There are several different treatment options for endometriosis. These include:
- Pain medications. Most doctors try a conservative approach when first treating endometriosis in a patient. Your doctor may recommend taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications, like NSAIDs, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe OTC pain medications in conjunction with other drugs
- Hormone therapy. Although hormone therapy is not a permanent fix for endometriosis, some doctors prescribe hormonal contraceptives, progestin therapy, gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists and antagonists, or aromatase inhibitors
- Conservative surgery where your doctor removes endometrial tissue while preserving the uterus and ovaries. Doctors usually perform this surgery laparoscopically (through a small, minimally invasive incision), though in some cases your doctor may perform the procedure via traditional abdominal surgery
- Fertility treatment
- Hysterectomy with removal of the ovaries. The medical community once hailed the removal of the uterus as the most effective way to treat the signs and symptoms associated with endometriosis, though today, experts in the field are focusing more on the careful and thorough removal of endometrial tissue
Why is Endometriosis Linked to a Higher Stroke Risk?
Although the findings do not mean that patients who have been diagnosed with endometriosis will have a stroke, they do demonstrate a moderate increase in risk. The data indicates that the additional risk factors result largely in part from some of the medical interventions that doctors use to treat endometriosis, like surgical hysterectomies and postmenopausal hormone therapy. For the study, researchers analyzed the relationship between endometriosis and two types of strokes: ischemic and hemorrhagic. The study included medical data from 112,056 women over a 28-year-period. Researchers found that patients who developed endometriosis were 34% more likely to have a stroke as compared to patients who did not develop the gynecological condition. Patients who underwent hysterectomies or oophorectomies (the surgical removal of the ovaries) had a 39% higher stroke risk. Postmenopausal hormone therapy accounted for a 16% increased risk.
The study’s researchers are quick to mention that their findings do not mean that hysterectomies, oophorectomies and postmenopausal hormone therapy are not useful and viable treatment options for many patients who suffer from endometriosis. But Stacey A. Missner, the study’s senior author, says it is important that doctors tell their patients about the potential dangers that they may encounter. Medical professionals should also screen their endometriosis patients who are undergoing treatment for cardiac and stroke risk factors, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, certain birth control medications and smoking. This way, doctors can keep a watchful eye on their patients who have slightly higher stroke risks, which gives them a better chance to identify potential causes for concern before they become acute, life-changing problems.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), signs of a stroke typically include:
- Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or legs, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination
- A sudden, severe headache with no known cause
It is crucial to act quickly when a stroke is happening. Most of the treatments that work best are only available for patients whose symptoms doctors notice and diagnose within three hours of their onset. The CDC has an easy-to-remember acronym for identifying a potential stroke in someone you know or care about: F.A.S.T. These letters stand for:
- F: Face. Ask the person to smile. Is one side of their face drooping?
- A: Arms. Ask the person to raise both of their arms. Does one drift downwards?
- S: Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
- T: Time. If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately
When are Doctors Liable for Harming Patients?
Part of a doctor’s responsibility in order to practice medicine is to stay up to date on medical advancements and developments for the entirety of their career. This includes information about the link between endometriosis, ischemic, and hemorrhagic strokes. When a doctor, hospital, or medical provider is negligent and it causes harm to a patient, it is medical malpractice. For example, if a provider fails to identify and diagnose in a timely manner the symptoms of stroke in a patient, that patient should consider filing a medical malpractice claim.
At Galfand Berger, our attorneys are experienced at representing victims of preventable medical errors. Our team represented a client whose doctor sent him home without recognizing the symptoms of a severe infection. As a result, our client experienced major medical complications. Our attorneys successfully settled the matter, recovering $1.3 million for our client. You can read more about this recovery here. If you have questions about filing a medical malpractice claim and would like to speak with someone, we can help. Contact a representative online now.
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If you have a question about filing a legal claim, contact the Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP today. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or fill out our online form for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.