Gradually there are more and more people becoming interested in endometriosis these days, which may be largely due to the internet allowing sufferers, researchers and clinicians to communicate effectively and efficiently (the fact that I would’ve been able to write this blog 20 years ago goes some way to prove this point), but endometriosis is not a modern disease, it is a condition that has been around for a very long time. If we take it to its logical conclusion, endometriosis is probably older than humanity itself. The fact that some species of primate, with which we share a common ancestor, can develop endometriosis in captivity suggests the disease is millions of years old (around 25 million years as an approximation).
Earliest accounts of endometriosis date back to Europe about 300 years ago, where it was described as ‘cysts’ in the pelvic cavity then later described in detail by a physician named Von Rokitansky in 1860. And yet throughout the long, sad natural history of endometriosis, it has only been during the last 100 years or so that we have actually gained any practical insight into the disease. Trying to find the origin of endometriosis in 20th century literature is especially difficult as the disease has not always been known as endometriosis.
A recent publication has found that a Canadian gynaecologist named Thomas Cullen was the first to identify the disease under the name ‘adenomyoma’ around 1908. However, it was not until Dr John Sampson started formulating his theories on the pathology of the disease (in particular retrograde menstruation) that it came to be known as ‘endometriosis’ which roughly translates as ‘disease inside the uterus’.
Thus it went from there; the number of papers published on endometriosis research has exploded over the years:
From 69 publications in 1960
To 125 in 1970
To 196 in 1980
To 430 in 1990
To 453 in 2000
To 901 in 2010
In total there are over 17,000 articles with endometriosis as a keyword published to date, a 13 fold increase over 50 years. So the scientific community have sat up, taken notice and are trying to come up with solutions that will hopefully be improving lives in the not too distant future.