Adenomyosis – meaning, 6 Possible Causes, Diagnosis, Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Treatment | Comprehensive Guide
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Adenomyosis is a non-life-threatening condition that primarily affects women between 32 and 38. It shares some similarities with endometriosis; however, the main distinction is that endometriosis occurs when the uterine lining cells grow outside the uterus, whereas in adenomyosis, the uterine cells grow into the uterus.
This article will delve into this topic, providing an overview of its meaning, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options.
What is Adenomyosis?
Adenomyosis refers to a condition where the inner lining of the uterus, known as the endometrium, grows into the muscular wall of the uterus, called the myometrium. This can lead to symptoms such as menstrual cramps, lower abdominal pressure, and bloating before menstrual periods, ultimately causing heavy menstrual bleeding. Adenomyosis can be present throughout the uterus or confined to a specific area.
Adenomyosis can be draining, as its persistent pain and heavy bleeding can significantly impact a woman’s well-being, diminishing her ability to enjoy a normal and fulfilling life.
Below are the potential symptoms associated with adenomyosis:
- painful menstruation, also known as dysmenorrhea
- heavy menstrual bleeding, also known as menorrhagia
- dyspareunia (painful sex)
- severe uterine cramps
- pain in the pelvic area
- Abdominal pressure and bloating
While the exact causes of adenomyosis have not been definitively determined according to research, the following factors, identified by experienced medical professionals, are among the commonly observed causes of adenomyosis:
1. Fetal development
Adenomyosis can potentially develop in an individual during the early stages of fetal development when the uterus is initially forming.
The risk of developing adenomyosis may be heightened by inflammation in the uterus following uterine surgery.
3. Uterine Injuries
Adenomyosis can be caused by uterine injuries, including those occurring during cesarean delivery or other surgical procedures.
The following are the risk factors associated with adenomyosis:
Factors that can increase the duration of estrogen exposure, and consequently the risk of adenomyosis, may include menopause, a higher body mass index (BMI), or previous use of hormonal contraceptives.
Adenomyosis can impact individuals of any age, but it is often not diagnosed until during or after menopause, particularly when a hysterectomy is performed.
4. Uterine Surgery
Undergoing previous uterine surgeries, such as cesarean delivery, can potentially elevate the risk of developing adenomyosis.
Diagnosing adenomyosis typically involves obtaining a comprehensive medical history from the patient and conducting a pelvic examination. Primarily, it is the responsibility of the doctor to perform these initial steps. If the doctor suspects adenomyosis after assessing all relevant information and conducting the examination, they may recommend further tests, which can include:
This procedure enables the doctor to examine areas of the uterine lining tissue that have infiltrated the muscular wall of the uterus.
Doctors frequently employ an MRI scan to visualize the inner muscle layer of the uterus.
3. Endometrial Biopsy
Occasionally, the doctor may perform a biopsy by obtaining a small sample of the endometrial tissue inside the uterus for testing purposes. While this procedure may not directly diagnose adenomyosis, it can help rule out other potential causes of the individual’s symptoms.
Treatment options may be considered for individuals who do not plan to conceive, are not in the childbearing stage, or are approaching menopause. If you are experiencing symptoms of adenomyosis, the following treatments should be considered:
1. Anti-inflammatory Medications or Pain Relief Drugs
Pain and discomfort can be alleviated by using medications such as ibuprofen.
Symptoms can be relieved by taking oral contraceptive pills, using progestin intrauterine devices, or receiving injections such as Depo-Provera. To address the condition, doctors may also prescribe gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists or antagonists, typically on a short-term basis, as they can induce temporary or false menopause.
3. Uterine Artery Embolization
A procedure known as uterine artery embolization involves the insertion of a tube into a major artery in the groin, followed by injecting small particles into the affected area. This technique aims to block the blood supply to the affected area, leading to the shrinkage of adenomyosis and reduced associated symptoms.
The only definitive treatment for adenomyosis is the complete removal of the uterus, known as a hysterectomy. However, this option may not be suitable for individuals who desire future pregnancies unless all other therapies have been unsuccessful and they prioritize pain relief over the ability to conceive.
When To See a Doctor
The initial and crucial step is to consult a doctor when suspecting adenomyosis. Self-medication is not recommended. It is important to seek medical advice if you are experiencing heavy or painful periods or any of the symptoms mentioned earlier.
However, individuals who are not attempting to conceive or are not experiencing any symptoms may not require treatment.
Adenomyosis is not inherently life-threatening but can cause significant discomfort and potential complications until menopause, when the condition typically subsides.
If there is suspicion of adenomyosis or endometriosis, it is advisable to seek medical guidance. Numerous treatments are available to help alleviate the symptoms associated with these conditions.