Adenomyosis affects the endometrial tissue of women during their reproductive years. It can easily be confused with endometriosis, as the two conditions share a large number of symptoms. It is only by understanding the true nature of adenomyosis and how it differs from endometriosis that you can find and receive the appropriate treatment.
What is Adenomyosis?
Adenomyosis is a very common gynecological condition that affects women during their reproductive years. It occurs when the tissue that normally lines the uterus (endometrium) invades muscle fibres of the uterine wall, causing pain and heavy periods (menorrhagia). Adenomyosis is often misdiagnosed because signs and symptoms can be similar to those seen in other conditions such as endometriosis or adhesions.
Adenomyosis will only occur in women after they begin menstruating, and it typically begins around age 35 and becomes more common with age. Approximately 10 to 20% of women who go through menopause have adenomyosis. Adenomyosis used to be thought of as a disease characterized by pain and infertility, but recent studies have shown that adenomyosis may not damage the uterus or reduce fertility. Adenomyosis symptoms typically lessen after menopause because ovulation stops.
What are the Symptoms of Adenomyosis?
Women with adenomyosis manifest varying symptoms. Some of them show no symptoms at all, while those afflicted with symptomatic adenomyosis typically complain of heavy periods. It's actually the most common symptom of the condition. Other signs of adenomyosis include:
- Chronic pain in the pelvic floor
- Lower back pain
- Pain during menstruation and ovulation
- Painful intercourse
- Abnormal bleeding
Adenomyosis can often be misdiagnosed because symptoms are similar to those of endometriosis or scar tissue. Severe symptoms of adenomyosis include excruciating menstrual cramps, heavy bleeding and uterine enlargement.
Adenomyosis vs. Endometriosis
There are many similarities between adenomyosis and endometriosis, which can make diagnosis and finding a definitive treatment quite tricky. The key to telling one from the other is by looking at where the endometrial tissue grows. In adenomyosis, it grows on the uterine muscle; in endometriosis, an abnormal tissue growth occurs outside the uterus.
Women with endometriosis often experience similar symptoms to those with adenomyosis, including painful periods, pain during sex and pelvic pain. However, unlike adenomyosis, endometriosis causes pain during urination and diarrhoea or painful bowel movements.
Causes of Adenomyosis
Adenomyosis is typically caused by a buildup of endometrial tissue within the muscle wall of the uterus during the normal menstrual cycle. How this happens remains a mystery to this day. However, experts suggest that the following may trigger it:
- The uterine muscle becomes encrusted with endometrial tissue when the uterus first develops in a foetus.
- The endometrial cells grow on the muscle wall of the uterus as a result of surgery, such as a cesarean section.
- The uterine muscle may have been invaded by bone marrow stem cells.
- Weakening of the myometrial wall of the uterus due to inflammation affects the endometrium of women postpartum, causing the uterus' lining cells to break.
Age is another important factor that increases one's risk of adenomyosis. Middle-aged women are more likely to suffer from this condition, though younger women may also be affected.
Treatment Options for Adenomyosis
Adenomyosis symptoms typically lessen after menopause because ovulation stops. In some cases, the symptoms can be treated with surgery to remove the extra endometrial tissue that has invaded the uterine wall. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and medicines for preventing blood clots can also be prescribed to reduce blood flow during menstruation and the pain associated with it in cases of severe adenomyosis. The following medical treatments are also possible:
- Hormone therapy reduces estrogen production. Hormonal treatments usually involve the use of birth control pills.
- Surgical removal of adenomyotic tissue, which basically means the entire uterus, if management of adenomyosis cannot be done with medication
Some natural remedies that prove to be effective treatments for adenomyosis include:
- A heat pack can help relieve menstrual pain by improving blood flow
- Taking a ginger remedy can help with severe period paid thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties
- A diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and protein like eggs and fish, can assist menstrual flow and lead to the complete recovery from adenomyosis.
- Zinc, magnesium, calcium, as well as vitamins A, B, C and E help to normalise menstruation and eliminate adenomyosis permanently.
Diagnosis of Adenomyosis
Imaging tests, such as transvaginal ultrasound, are the primary diagnostic tool for determining whether an individual has adenomyosis. This tool allows doctors to observe the characteristics of the uterus, its muscular wall, and the uterine lining in order to easily diagnose the presence of the disease. Additionally, a pelvic exam will be performed to check for an enlarged uterus.
Getting an accurate diagnosis at the first sign of adenomyosis is a crucial step to finding the best treatment approach for adenomyosis.
Prevention Strategies for Adenomyosis
Despite being a common condition among women of reproductive age, adenomyosis can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle. These steps, in addition to maintaining a healthy diet and taking essential herbs like ginger, turmeric, and coriander, can help you avoid the disease and improve your quality of life:
- Make sure to undergo regular pelvic exam and pap smear every 2 years once you reach age 21-25
- Avoid wearing extremely tight clothing, especially during the menstrual cycle
- Avoid heavy lifting and tough physical labour when adenomyosis symptoms are present (and for up to 3 months after adenomyosis symptoms go away)
- Consult a women's health specialist that can help you.