What Is Adenomyosis?
Menstruation can be painful, but there is a point when the pain becomes abnormal. Unfortunately, it is incredibly common for those who menstruate to walk around suffering from painful symptoms, assuming that the pain they are experiencing is normal. The uncomfortable reality is that our bodies are so under-researched, and we aren’t taught enough about our cycles to help us identify when something may be wrong.
Adenomyosis affects one in ten individuals and is common for those over forty and those who have been pregnant one or more times. If you experience heavy bleeding, severe cramps, pelvic pain, and even pain during sex, these symptoms can be related to adenomyosis. You may notice these symptoms getting gradually worse as you age.
But what is adenomyosis, and how does it affect the body and your cycle as a whole?
What Is Adenomyosis
Adenomyosis develops when the endometrial tissue (inner lining) breaks through the uterus wall and grows into the muscular tissue. Endometrial tissue is the lining inside of your uterus that thickens and sheds during your period. For adenomyosis, the tissue continues to behave as it normally would throughout your cycle, thickening and shedding, but because it is happening outside and inside the uterus wall, the pain during menstruation is worse.
This can also cause your uterus to enlarge and make your periods far heavier than normal. This side effect is often accompanied by pelvic pain, severe bloating, and sharp cramps that can make it difficult to function. It can be easy to chalk these symptoms up to a particularly bad period, but it is important to contact your doctor when they are prolonged.
While there is no definitive answer to what causes adenomyosis, some factors can be traced back to it. Most commonly, you’ll find adenomyosis in those who have had surgeries involving the uterus, given birth, or those older than 40. Cells can be transferred during surgery and cause potential growths outside of the uterus. Adenomyosis can also be caused by hormonal imbalances triggered by pregnancy or aging.
Until recently, it has been difficult to diagnose adenomyosis without performing a hysterectomy and observing the cells from the tissue afterward. Now it can be observed using similar technology used to observe infants in the womb or MRIs. Because adenomyosis can also cause an enlargement of the uterus, your doctor may be able to identify the potential for disease by the swelling.
It is important to note that if you struggle with endometriosis, you may find you have adenomyosis, as they can go hand in hand. Both may cause fertility issues, so if you’re struggling to get pregnant, your doctor might be able to diagnose based on those factors as well.
Additionally, it can be difficult to diagnose adenomyosis because the symptoms are incredibly similar to the growth of benign tumors in the uterine lining known as fibroids. If your doctor is struggling to diagnose you, do not give up. There are multiple options your doctor can go through to diagnose adenomyosis.
Much like endometriosis, it is difficult to fully treat adenomyosis, but there are treatment plans to help reduce pain, the severity of symptoms and help put you at ease. Depending on how severe your symptoms are, your doctor may prescribe one or more of these options.
- Anti-Inflammatories: Your doctor may suggest certain drugs to take before and during your cycle to aid with adenomyosis-related inflammation. Depending on the severity of symptoms, they may only mildly help with the pain.
- Hormone Therapy: Because hormonal imbalances can lead to adenomyosis, some doctors may prescribe hormone therapy to replenish or regulate your hormones.
- Surgery: Depending on the case, your doctor may suggest certain surgeries to help treat symptoms or even suggest total removal of the uterus if the pain is excruciating. If the case is this severe, other treatments may not penetrate deep enough to help relieve symptoms.
As it stands, a hysterectomy is the only definitive way to treat adenomyosis. Research continues in hopes of finding more treatment options, and, of course, experimental treatments are being tested. Until research secures a better treatment or cure, you should work with your doctor to find the best option for you and your particular case.