Monday, 25 October 2010

Endometriosis and Parkinson’s disease

There’s not usually much good news when it comes to endometriosis, so I know what some of you may be thinking “Oh no, he’s going to tell us we’re more likely to get Parkinson’s if we have endometriosis” well, you shall be pleasantly surprised to hear that, in fact, I’m going to report the opposite. Well, ok it’s not quite the opposite, but a current study has found that women with endometriosis are no more likely to develop Parkinson’s than those without endo.

The study was carried out by the Boston University School of Medicine and took 12,093 Parkinson’s patients from the Danish National Registry of Patients. The authors then looked at what other estrogen related diseases these women had been diagnosed with before Parkinson’s. It may be news to some of you, it certainly was to me, that estrogen exposure has been associated with Parkinson’s. However, whereas an increase in estrogen exposure is suspected as a causative factor for endometriosis; endogenous (that is, the body’s own) estrogen is thought to be protective against Parkinson’s, this may be the reason that men are more at risk of developing Parkinson’s than women.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease. That is to say it is a disease that causes loss of brain cells leading to problems with movement, which gradually gets worse over time. It is a disease that usually affects older people (61 is the average age of onset in the U.S). Like endometriosis there is no single cause for Parkinson’s, which currently cannot be cured, but can be treated. Some of the early signs of Parkinson’s are:
- Difficulty/slowness/stiffness of movement
- Dementia
- Speech changes
- Difficulty chewing/eating
- Changes in mood or sleeping patterns
If you’d like some more information on Parkinson’s follow the link below for some good information

Monday, 11 October 2010

Runaround (again)

Firstly I’d just like to apologise for not posting for while, I’ve been busy sorting out my master’s thesis which, thankfully, is all done now so I can get back on with this! So to start here’s an interesting article enquiring as to whether exercise or painkillers are better to alleviate the pelvic pain symptoms associated with endometriosis. Initially it seems like a question common sense could answer, but in fact the study was comparing the effectiveness of painkillers in women who have regular exercise and those who don’t. Their conclusion was that women who exercise regularly find painkillers less effective than those who do not exercise regularly.

Unfortunately I can’t get access to the full article which is tricky as I can’t find out which painkillers each group was taking. After all, if the group who did not exercise were talking stronger painkillers then this might skew the results. Another problem with this study is the sample size. For the analysis of the effectiveness of painkillers the authors only used 14 women who exercised and 33 who didn’t. Although a statistical difference was found between the two groups, we have to think with such small numbers of women, was it really a fair comparison?

It is also important to consider that women with endometriosis who exercise regularly may be able to do so because they experience less severe symptoms than those who may be unable to exercise regularly. There are also socio-economic factors to consider, for example women who are being supported by their partners would have more time to exercise compared to those who have to work full time.

Without having all the details to hand it is hard to judge however, is it right for the authors to conclude “....that taking painkillers might be less effective among endometriosis patients performing regular daily sport activities” with such a small study? What if women with endometriosis who exercise regularly decide not to take painkillers on the basis of this finding when they could have helped? As a scientist you have to be very careful what you say and how you say it, especially if what you say can be fed through, what I like to call, the ‘Out of Context Generator’. This is a machine owned by all media outlets, especially newspapers. Basically, facts are fed into this machine and then sensationalist headlines are spat out that help increase revenue for said media outlet. If we were to feed the above article into this machine we would get a headline something like “Exercise found to be better than Drugs for Painful Womb Condition” (because journalists so love to refer to endometriosis as such).

Unscrupulous pedlars of alternative medicines could use this as ‘proof’ that natural regimes are preferential to drugs forced upon us by evil, faceless pharmaceutical companies. Do you see how a relatively innocuous statement can get out of hand? What can we do to avoid such attempts to confuse us? As Socrates once said “The greatest danger to both the individual and society is the suspension of critical thought ”. Basically don’t be afraid to question whatever you read, wherever you read it, but of course I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t say, don’t take my word for it.