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New study shines light on endometriosis: Taller women at higher risk

New study shines light on endometriosis: Taller women at higher risk

Endometriosis is a condition that affects the female reproductive system. As detailed by the Mayo Clinic, the illness occurs when uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus, as opposed to inside, where it is supposed to be. It often leads to chronic pain, particularly in the pelvic area. The Endometriosis Foundation of America reported that 1 in 10 American females develop the illness in their lifetime. 

A new study has shone further light on the condition, by revealing that taller and thinner women tend to be at a higher risk. This article will take a closer look at endometriosis and the details of the new study, before making a case for why single-use tools are the safest option for patients during pelvic exams, which are typically used by gynecologists as part of a diagnostic strategy for the disease.

A closer look at endometriosis
As explained by the Mayo Clinic, a healthy uterus is lined by a tissue which is known as endometrium. In cases of endometriosis, however, this tissue begins to grow on the outside of the uterus itself. The abnormal tissue growth is most commonly found in and around the pelvic area, the Endometriosis Foundation of America noted. It can form on organs such as the fallopian tubes and ovaries, as well as on the outside of the uterus itself. The source elaborated that, although rare, there have been cases of endometriosis forming in places such as the rectum, bladder and bowel. Healthline stated that while there are many theories, researchers are unable to provide a definitive reason for why this occurs.

The Mayo Clinic further explained that the endometrial tissue growing in the wrong places still attempts to break down – much like healthy tissue does during a menstrual cycle. Given its location away from the cervix, however, the tissue is unable to be expelled from the body. Consequently, the tissue can become extremely irritated and scar tissue can develop. Organs can even become joined together due to the abnormal tissue growth. In some cases cysts can form. All of this typically engenders severe pain in patients. 

Healthline elaborated on some of the most common symptoms of endometriosis. The publication explained how chronic pain in the most notable sign, usually in the pelvic area. There, are, however, other symptoms that shouldn't be ignored. Examples include severe cramping, particularly before and during a menstrual cycle, chronic pain during a menstrual cycle, lower abdomen pain, back pain during a period, bleeding outside of a normal menstrual cycle, pain after sexual intercourse and more. In some cases bowel pain may also develop. 

Intensity of symptoms can vary from mild to debilitating. In many cases, those with the condition find that the pain and discomfort has an adverse impact on their daily lives, including work and interpersonal relationships. 

The illness can be treated in a number of ways. Milder cases can often be managed with the help of pain killers. Hormone therapy can also be helpful. In chronic cases surgical intervention may be needed.

New joint U.S.-French study shines further light on the disease
According to a recent article from Endometriosis News, the journal Human Reproduction recently published a joint study from researchers based in the U.S. and France, titled "Associations among body size across the life course, adult height and endometriosis,"which found that women who were taller in height and thinner in terms of weight are statistically more likely to develop endometriosis. The study also reportedly found that young women and adolescents are at a higher risk. The French researchers involved in the study are based at Paris Saclay University, while the American researchers are from Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The research focused on a sample of 61,208 French women, 2,416 of whom had endometriosis. The scientists found that weight played a notable role, with thinner women at a higher risk for developing the disease, particularly if they were thin at several crucial milestones – during their first period, around the age of eight, and again between the ages of 20-25. Other factors were considered, such as exercise levels and the use of birth control, but the relationship remained the same – thinner women were at more risk. The article noted that women who had previously experienced cancer were not considered in the study, given the fact that cancer can increase one's risk of endometriosis. 

"Thinner women were found to be at more risk for endometriosis."

Alongside weight, researchers also uncovered a connection between height and the condition, with women below 5 feet 2 inches less likely to develop the illness than those over 5 feet 5 inches. 

Diagnosing endometriosis
Diagnosing endometriosis can be challenging. As explained by the Endometriosis Foundation of America, the disease is not evident on routine tests, or ultrasounds and MRIs. Typically physicians will begin to suspect the condition after performing a physical exam. Healthline explained that a physical exam is a simple procedure wherein a physician will feel for any abnormalities in the area – it is performed manually. As explained by Very Well, an instrument known as a vaginal speculum may be used during a pelvic exam, which may be performed alongside the physical exam. The purpose of this tool is to open the area more fully, allowing physicians easier access to the vagina and cervix. 

A definitive diagnosis of endometriosis can only be made after the performance of a laproscopy, which is a small surgical procedure, the Mayo Clinic explained. This kind of intervention allows doctors to see the impacted area in much closer detail and collect samples of the abnormal tissue.

Endometriosis is often characterized by chronic pelvic pain.Endometriosis is often characterized by chronic pelvic pain.

The importance of single-use tools
As mentioned, vaginal speculums are often used to perform pelvic exams, and these procedures are often the first step that gynecologists take when patients complain of pain or heavy vaginal bleeding – symptoms associated with endometriosis and a range of other conditions affecting the reproductive organs, including cervical cancer. 

It is common for health care organizations to still use reusuable vaginal speculums. Reusable tools are disinfected after use and then utilized again, and the process is repeated indefinitely. Studies have indicated, however, that this strategy places patients at risk for cross-contamination germs and certain viruses. For example, a Brigham Young University study found that the disinfection procedures used on reusable speculums are actually ineffective at killing certain strains of the human papillomavirus – namely HPV16, which is strongly linked with the development of cervical cancer. As such, whenever women receive a pelvic exam with a reusable speculum, they are at a small but significant risk of contracting HPV, which in turn increases their risk of cervical cancer.

When it comes to cancer, any kind of risk, especially in a medical setting, is arguably too high. An effective way for health care providers to circumvent this risk is to employ single-use speculums and other medical tools. Single-use devices are designed to be used on one patient, one time only, before being safely disposed of. 

Consider OBP Medical
OBP Medical provides a range of single-use medical tools, including laryngoscopes and vaginal speculums. Our vaginal speculums come with a safe LED light source, which is powered by alkaline batteries. The safe light source means that the tools are fine to dispose of, even when the light is on. The tools are well-built, pre-assembled and highly cost-effective. To learn more and to request a free sample, visit our site today.

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