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All About Adenomyosis – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

There are many pelvic health disorders that can impact women.  One of the lesser known conditions is called Adenomyosis. Today we are covering what Adenomyosis is, how this condition impacts women, and what your options are in seeking help.

What is Adenomyosis?

Adenomyosis is a gynecological condition wherein the uterine lining begins to grow into and break through the muscles of the uterus. While Adenomyosis is not dangerous, it can cause complications with pain and excessive bleeding, as the affected tissue behaves the same as healthy uterine tissue. The affected tissue can be localized in one spot, or it can affect the entire uterus, causing a wide variation in the severity of symptoms.

What causes Adenomyosis?

The root cause of Adenomyosis is unknown, but theories range from developmental & genetic causes, to complications during childbirth and C-section surgeries. The cause may vary from person to person, and be exacerbated by a variety of life events.1

How common is Adenomyosis?

In one study2  it was found that 20% of women who attended a general gynecological clinic had Adenomyosis. However, due to the wide range of severity in symptoms, many women may have Adenomyosis and not even know it! It is estimated that up to 65% of females may be impacted by Adenomyosis. 

Why Adenomyosis Occurs

Adenomyosis is most often associated with hormonal and physiological changes in a woman’s body. The tissue affected by Adenomyosis may begin to behave abnormally due to the expansion of the uterus during postpartum and pregnancy, as a reaction to surgical incisions, or due to hormonal shift brought on by pregnancy, childbirth, or hormone imbalances.1 

Who gets Adenomyosis?

Adenomyosis affects a wide range of women, but the most common risk factors include1:

  • Childbirth 
  • Middle Age
  • Previous uterine surgery
  • Endometriosis3

Even if you do not fall into these categories, it’s important to bring your concerns to your healthcare provider, as Adenomyosis is extremely common and can affect women who are younger or have not given birth.

What are the symptoms of Adenomyosis?3

Symptoms of Adenomyosis may vary, but include:

  • Painful menstrual cramps 
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Abnormal menstruation
  • Pelvic pain
  • Painful intercourse
  • Infertility
  • Enlarged uterus

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, speak to your gynecologist or general health care provider, as these could be symptoms of Adenomyosis, or another more serious gynecological disorder. When in doubt, get checked out!

Is Adenomyosis Painful?

Adenomyosis can cause increased bleeding and cramping which can cause increased pain during menstruation. This excessive bleeding can also have lifestyle impacts, where women are not able to participate in their usual activities due to severe symptoms. 

How is Adenomyosis diagnosed?3

Adenomyosis is usually first brought to the attention of a healthcare provider when a woman is experiencing severe symptoms. To confirm the diagnosis, your healthcare provider may provide the following:

  • Pelvic exam: An initial pelvic exam can show your healthcare practitioner if there are any changes in your uterus, from size, to texture and discomfort levels. It is important to see your gynecologist or family physician often to be able to catch these changes early for more effective treatment. 
  • Ultrasound: If your physician suspects that you may have adenomyosis, they will likely send you for an ultrasound. Through these images, your practitioner can identify any thickening of the uterine tissue or muscle change due to Adenomyosis. 
  • Imaging scans: MRI scans may be used to collect images of the uterine lining and impacted muscle to diagnose Adenomyosis.
  • Biopsy: In extreme cases, after a hysterectomy is performed a biopsy may be done on the impacted tissue to confirm an Adenomyosis diagnosis.

When should I see a doctor for Adenomyosis?

If you are in a high-risk demographic, and are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, visit a healthcare provider you trust to begin the process of getting diagnosed. General practitioners, as well as gynecological physicians can help in assessing whether your symptoms are a result of Adenomyosis, or if another gynecological issue may be the cause. In either case, it is important to be proactive and approach your healthcare team early to receive the most effective, and least invasive, treatment.

What is the treatment for Adenomyosis?3

Adenomyosis doesn’t always require invasive surgery or extreme therapies to be managed. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, over-the-counter pain medication may be sufficient to manage the associated pain.

If your Adenomyosis is impacted by your hormone levels, hormonal birth control can be used to limit menstruation and reduce symptoms through adjusting estrogen levels throughout the month.

For more extreme cases, a hysterectomy may be required to remove the damaged tissue. This will result in the uterus being removed, and the impacted tissue and muscle no longer causing pain or excessive bleeding. 

Takeaway

Adenomyosis is one of the more common, yet lesser known, gynecological conditions facing women today. If you believe that you have Adenomyosis, check in with your healthcare provider to get your diagnoses, and begin your treatment plan! You do not need to suffer in silence, or assume that pain and bleeding that impacts your day-to-day activities is simply a fact of life. At Pelvic Awareness Project, we believe every woman should have access to the answers and care she deserves – find a physician near you today!

References:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adenomyosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20369138
  2. https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/27/12/3432/652839)
  3.  https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14167-adenomyosis

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