Adenomyosis is a disease that causes many symptoms that women experience without understanding the cause. Women just accept that their period is painful without realizing it is due to a disorder. This disease affects the uterus and can lead to infertility and other issues. Adenomyosis is often misdiagnosed as other conditions, such as fibroids or endometriosis.
Adenomyosis can be managed with medication and other treatments that help relieve symptoms such as pelvic floor physical therapy. This blog post discusses Adenomyosis and how to manage its symptoms so you can live a healthier life! If you are experiencing these symptoms, seek medical help to determine if the pain in your lower abdomen, pelvic area, or back is due to this condition.
What is Adenomyosis
Adenomyosis is a condition where the uterus lining grows into the muscular wall of the uterus. This condition can cause painful periods, heavy bleeding during your period, prolonged bleeding, and abdominal pain. Women with adenomyosis have higher levels of pain during menstrual cycles. Adenomyosis can also lead to infertility.
How Common Is Adenomyosis?
This is a relatively rare condition, affecting about one in every 500 women. However, it is more common in older women. Adenomyosis occurs when the cells that line the uterus (endometrial cells) start to grow into the muscle of the uterus (myometrium).
What Causes Adenomyosis?
While there is no clear cause of Adenomyosis, estrogen seems to play a role in its development.
Listed below are several theories regarding its development:
Adenomyosis is believed to be influenced by estrogen, a hormone that promotes the growth of the uterine lining (endometrium) during the menstrual cycle. It is thought that higher levels of estrogen or an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone may contribute to the development of adenomyosis.
One theory suggests that adenomyosis occurs when the endometrial tissue invades the myometrium, which is the muscular layer of the uterus. This invasive growth might result from disruptions in the boundary between the endometrium and myometrium, allowing the endometrial tissue to penetrate into the muscle layer.
Chronic inflammation in the uterus has been associated with adenomyosis. Inflammatory factors may cause changes in the uterine environment, leading to the development of adenomyosis.
Prior Uterine Surgeries
Some studies suggest that prior uterine surgeries, such as cesarean section or myomectomy (removal of uterine fibroids), may increase the risk of developing adenomyosis. These surgeries can disrupt the normal architecture of the uterus and potentially facilitate the infiltration of endometrial tissue into the myometrium.
There may be a genetic component to adenomyosis. Certain genetic factors could predispose individuals to develop the condition, although more research is needed to understand the specific genetic links.
Invasion of Bone Marrow Stem Cells
Emerging research suggests that the invasion of bone marrow stem cells into the uterine muscle (myometrium) may contribute to the development of adenomyosis. These stem cells, capable of differentiating into various cell types, including endometrial cells, may migrate to the uterus and integrate into the myometrium.
While adenomyosis can affect any woman, there are certain factors that may increase the risk of developing the condition. These risk factors include:
Adenomyosis is more common in women over 30, and particularly in those over 40.
Women who have had multiple pregnancies or given birth at a young age may be at higher risk of developing adenomyosis.
Women with uterine surgeries, such as a myomectomy or cesarean section, may be at increased risk of developing adenomyosis.
Women with endometriosis may be at higher risk of developing adenomyosis.
Women with higher levels of estrogen or an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone may be at increased risk of developing adenomyosis.
Living with Adenomyosis
Adenomyosis can be challenging to manage; however, understanding the condition and its symptoms can significantly improve your quality of life.
Detailed below are a few notable things to know when living with Adenomyosis:
Adenomyosis Gets Worse Over Time
Adenomyosis is a progressive disease, which means that it may get worse over time. This is a chronic condition that needs to be managed. If left untreated, it may lead to infertility or other problems such as pelvic organ prolapse.
As women continue to live longer lives, reproductive issues like adenomyosis have increased in prevalence over the last 30 years. This is due to hormonal changes from menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause over a longer lifetime.
Infertility is a symptom for some women because it will prevent implantation from occurring on the uterus wall. As endometrial tissue, which lines the uterus, grows into the muscular wall of the uterus, it makes it difficult for an embryo to implant.
This silent condition can also cause miscarriages and premature births. If you are experiencing infertility and have not been diagnosed with adenomyosis, it is important to see a gynecologist for testing. Adenomyosis is also more common in women who have had multiple pregnancies and c-sections.
Adenomyosis occurs most often in women who are over 40 years old, so luckily the majority of women will be done having children.
The symptoms of Adenomyosis are often misdiagnosed as other conditions, or left undiagnosed altogether. Adenomyosis is often referred to as the ‘Silent Disease’ because you may have no symptoms or it can be misdiagnosed for years before being discovered.
The symptoms are similar to other diseases and health problems, but there are some key signs that you may have Adenomyosis:
- Pelvic pain, especially during menstruation
- Heavy periods
- Painful sex
- Bloating and/or swelling in the stomach area
- Urinary problems
- Painful intercourse
- Severe cramping with knifelike pelvic pain
- Abnormal menstruation
- Enlarged uterus
You may have heard of the term adenomyosis belly. This nickname describes how adenomyosis can make the abdomen protrude as the uterine wall grows thicker. Adenomyosis belly may even make some woman look like she is months into a pregnancy.
Heavy bleeding may also lead to anemia in some women. If you feel cold or chronically fatigued, your body may not have enough iron-rich blood cells due to excess blood loss during menstruation.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please see your doctor for a diagnosis. Adenomyosis can be managed through medication, surgery, or hormone therapy.
Diagnosing the Condition
A diagnosis usually begins with a physical exam and a review of your medical history. The doctor will ask about your menstrual cycle, including when you first started menstruating and when your last period was. They may also do a pelvic exam to check for enlarged or tender ovaries. Based on your symptoms, your gynecologist can do a few additional tests.
- Ultrasound: A transvaginal ultrasound may be used to see if the uterine muscle is thickening.
- Imaging scans: If your doctor is uncertain about the diagnosis, they may order an MRI or CT scan to get a better look at the uterus. This can also show thickening walls in the uterus.
- Laparoscopy: A laparoscopy is an invasive procedure in which a small camera is inserted into the abdomen through a tiny incision. This allows the doctor to see if there are any lesions or fibroids inside the uterus.
- Biopsy: Adenomyosis is diagnosed with a biopsy of the uterine muscle. This involves taking a tissue sample from inside your uterus and sending it to a lab for testing. Unfortunately, this can only be done after a hysterectomy, so isn’t a good option if you are not done having children.
Endometriosis vs. Adenomyosis
Endometriosis and adenomyosis are both gynecological conditions that primarily affect women of reproductive age, involving the abnormal growth of endometrial tissue. While they share some similarities, they also have distinct characteristics that set them apart. Here is a comparison highlighting the similarities and differences between endometriosis and adenomyosis:
- Origin: Both conditions involve the growth of endometrial tissue outside its usual location.
- Symptoms: They can cause similar symptoms, including pelvic pain, menstrual irregularities, and painful intercourse.
- Impact on fertility: Both conditions can contribute to infertility or difficulty conceiving.
- Hormonal influence: Hormones, particularly estrogen, play a role in the development and progression of both conditions.
- Diagnosis: Both endometriosis and adenomyosis can be challenging to diagnose accurately, often requiring imaging techniques such as ultrasound, MRI, or laparoscopy.
- Location: Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue implants outside the uterus, commonly on the pelvic organs or abdominal cavity. Adenomyosis, on the other hand, is characterized by the presence of endometrial tissue within the muscular wall of the uterus itself.
- Tissue involvement: Endometriosis typically involves the formation of lesions or implants, whereas adenomyosis causes the infiltration of endometrial tissue into the uterine muscle.
- Symptoms: Adenomyosis often leads to more severe and prolonged menstrual bleeding, along with increased uterine enlargement and tenderness, whereas endometriosis may cause pain throughout the menstrual cycle.
- Spread: Endometriosis can spread to various sites in the body, while adenomyosis remains confined to the uterus.
- Treatment: Although some treatment options overlap, the management strategies for endometriosis and adenomyosis can differ. Hormonal therapies, pain management, and surgery are commonly used for endometriosis. Adenomyosis may require more invasive procedures such as hysterectomy or uterine artery embolization to alleviate symptoms.
It is important to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management plan, as each individual’s symptoms and treatment options can vary.
How to Treat Adenomyosis
There is no known cure for adenomyosis, but there are treatments available that can help lessen the symptoms. These symptoms can be uncomfortable, so if you suspect that you have it, make an appointment with your doctor. Adenomyosis is often difficult to diagnose because of its similar symptoms to other conditions, but once diagnosed the best treatment options are available.
Some treatments that may help relieve adenomyosis:
- Pain medication: Taking medications to reduce pain and inflammation can ease cramping. These include over-the-counter NSAIDs and naproxen.
- Hormone therapy: If your doctor thinks that the adenomyosis is being caused by high levels of estrogen, they may prescribe hormone therapy. This will help to lower estrogen levels and can be done with medication or surgery.
- Surgery: If other treatments haven’t worked, hysterectomy surgery may be an option. This procedure fully removes the uterus and is only an option if you are done having children.
- Heating pads: These can reduce pain and pressure in the uterus as a temporary fix.
There is no clear cause of Adenomyosis, so there are no known ways to prevent Adenomyosis. However, seeking medical treatment and diagnosis early can help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life. To better understand the underlying cause of your pain, it is important to seek medical attention.
Get Help From Dr. Lodge in Cool Springs, TN
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with adenomyosis, schedule an appointment with your gynecologist. Dr. Lodge in Cool Springs, TN can help diagnose and treat the condition. Adenomyosis is a difficult disease to live with, but there are treatments available that can make your life easier. Don’t suffer in silence – get help today.