How endometriosis impacts each person varies dramatically, but common symptoms (and there are many) include painful periods, pelvic pain, pain during sex, bowel pain, bladder pain, infertility, leg pain, irregular bleeding, bloating, fatigue, brain fog, nausea, and back pain. The condition is common, “affecting approximately 190 million women, girls, and gender-diverse individuals globally,” Dr. Sinervo says. Despite this, it’s extremely underfunded and under-researched — so much so that we still don’t know how to cure the disease, what causes it, and how it can fully manifest itself, including in the skin.
How Can Endometriosis Affect the Skin?
As endometriosis is a full-body disease that can manifest itself in many ways, it’s not surprising that the disease might be affecting our skin. Ranella Hirsch, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Boston, explains that it’s believed that endometriosis can impact the skin in a number of ways, and with a few conditions. Jessica Opoku-Anane, MD, MS, a board-certified OB/GYN at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and director of Endometriosis Treatment Center in New York City, notes that the skin is a topic that comes up a lot with her patients, which is a connection that she only dug into more after her training and during practice.
“I learned a lot more after I started practicing. If 20-30 percent of your patients are reporting the same symptom, you realize that it is actually a very common manifestation,” explains Dr. Opoku-Anane. “From our western education, as far as we know, there’s not a lot of evidence to suggest that there is an association, but I think that’s because it’s not been studied.”
Although very few skin conditions have been definitively proven to be linked to endometriosis, the doctors I spoke to said these four seem to have the most potential for a connection to the disease.
Prolonged Hormonal Breakouts
Hormonal acne is caused by (you guessed it) hormonal changes and fluctuations. When you have endometriosis, your hormones are likely to be, well, all over the place. This study from 2014 explored the links between hormonal acne and endometriosis, finding that teenagers with hormonal acne had a 20 percent increased chance of endometriosis.
Ife Rodney, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founding director of Eternal Dermatology in Fulton, Maryland, believes that hormonal fluctuation is where the connection between endometriosis and acne lies. That said, she doesn’t believe that endometriosis would be the sole cause of a patient’s acne: “Instead, I think that the timing coincides because both of these conditions can flare with these hormonal changes,” she says. Meaning, that both acne and endometriosis flare-ups independently occur during the time of menstruation due to hormone changes, rather than the endometriosis being the cause of the breakouts.