Research &

Endometriosis: Pain, Fertility, and the Female Condition.

Endometriosis is a chronic condition in which endometrial tissue or endometrium, the inner layer of the uterus that normally sheds monthly during the menstrual cycle, grows outside the uterus, typically in the abdominal cavity or on internal organs. Resulting inflammation causes severe pain and discomfort, as the tissue responds to the monthly fluctuations of a woman’s menstrual cycle.

In addition to significant pain and discomfort due to this disturbance, patients with endometriosis can experience dyspareunia (painful sex), bowel and urinary disorders, and neuropathy (weakness, numbness and pain caused by nerve damage) in lower extremities. Endometriosis is also the leading cause of infertility and early hysterectomies.

The disease affects an estimated 200 million women worldwide, and many women often experience a decade-long delay in diagnosis. There is currently no known cause of endometriosis and no cure.

Microscopic section of endometrial lesion located in subcutaneous abdominal tissue.

Endometriosis Facts

  1. 1 in 10 women worldwide suffer from endometriosis. That’s an estimated 200 million women impacted by this disease.
  2. Endometriosis affects women most in their reproductive years (25-35). It can even affect women in their youth, starting as early as age 11.
  3. 7 million women suffer from endometriosis in the US alone.
  4. Endometriosis leads to severely limited quality of life for patients both privately and professionally.
  5. Current treatments for endometriosis are limited to anti-inflammatory drugs, hormones, and surgeries, which often have adverse side effects and cause a decrease in quality of life.

Prevalence and anatomical distribution of endometriosis

  • These are locations of endometriosis on the ovaries, uterus, small intestine, colon

Endocannabinoid system: Promising Salvation for Endometriosis

Within the field of gynecological research and treatment, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) has emerged as an exciting new target for the pharmacological management of endometriosis-related symptoms.

Big data analyses that identify relevant studies combining the keywords “endometriosis,” “endocannabinoid,” “cannabinoid receptor,” “THC,” “endometriosis symptoms,” and “pain mechanisms” show that significant aspects of endometriosis-associated symptoms can be targeted by modulation of the ECS.

Current data and theories concerning the link between the ECS and management of endometriosis patients further show that:

  • Endometriosis is linked to endocannabinoid deficiency (ECD)
  • Reduced ECS function leads to growth of endometrium throughout the body and increased pain
  • Endometriosis-related pain is mediated through the CB1 receptor
  •  Women with endometriosis have lower levels of CB1 receptor in endometrial tissue

These findings suggest that the endocannabinoid system significantly contributes to mechanisms underlying both the peripheral innervation of abnormal endometrial growths as well as the pain associated with endometriosis. This evidence provides the basis for a novel approach to the development of new, effective cannabinoid-based treatments.