What is Adenomyosis?

Adenomyosis occurs when the endometrium, or the inner lining of a woman’s uterus, begins to break through the muscular wall of the uterus, which is the myometrium.

This is a benign and common condition, but even though the endometrial tissue is displaced, it will continue behaving as it normally would within the uterus. It will thicken, break down, and then bleed with each menstrual cycle.

It is not clear what causes adenomyosis, but it is most common amongst middle-aged women, as well as those who have had children. Also, some research suggests that individuals who have undergone uterine surgery might have an increased risk of developing adenomyosis.

What are the Symptoms of Adenomyosis?

For some women, adenomyosis does not cause any symptoms, or it only causes mild discomfort.

Symptoms include

  • Severe menstrual cramps that can be described as knife-like or sharp
  • The development and passage of blood clots during menstruation
  • Menstrual bleeding that is prolonged or heavy
  • Menstrual cramps that can be felt throughout the duration of your period, and that become worse as you age
  • Painful intercourse

Also, the uterus may enlarge and cause the lower abdomen to feel tender or appear bigger.

Adenomyosis Causes

While doctors know what adenomyosis is, they don’t know what causes it. Studies have been done in the past on the disease.

There are several theories that have emerged as result of those studies:

  • One theory is some women are born with extra endometrial tissue in the uterine wall. At some point in adulthood, it grows until it punctures the uterine wall.
  • Another theory is that adenomyosis is caused by the invasive growth of abnormal tissue from cells that pushes into the uterine wall.
  • A third theory blames stem cells in the uterine wall for the condition.
  • A fourth suggests adenomyosis occurs because of inflammation in the uterus after childbirth that creates the right conditions for a puncture.

Also thanks to previous studies, medical professionals have an idea of who could be at risk of developing it. Most of those diagnosed are middle-aged women who have given birth to children or had surgery performed on their uterus at some point in the past. Some studies state that women as young as 30 years old are at risk if they have children.

How is Adenomyosis Treated?

Adenomyosis will usually resolve on its own after menopause. Therefore, treatment will depend upon how close you are to menopause, as well as how severe your symptoms are.

Treatment includes

Anti-inflammatory medications, such as over-the-counter medicine like Advil, to ease the pain of adenomyosis. Hormone medications in the form of contraceptives may also provide relief.

However, if the pain is severe and you are many years away from menopause, a doctor might recommend a hysterectomy to surgically remove the uterus.

Adenomyosis Prevention

Because no one seems to know the exact cause of adenomyosis, there is currently no way to prevent it from happening. In some cases, it is mild enough that no treatment is necessary and the condition will disappear once a woman enters the menopause. In the most extreme cases, it is cured by having a hysterectomy.

Some of adenomyosis’s symptoms are similar to endometriosis (a condition where endometrial tissue gets outside the uterine wall), so sometimes a patient will be misdiagnosed.

At this point, the most anyone can do is seek out treatment if they start having symptoms – especially if they are in the demographic most at risk of it occurring in.