Adenomyosis is a condition that occurs when cells that normally line the uterus (endometrial tissue) also grow into the muscular wall of the uterus.
This can lead to enlargement of the uterus, a change in your menstrual cycle, as well as painful and heavy periods. It can affect women in many different ways, so it’s important that you understand what to look out for so you can get treated as soon as possible.
Adenomyosis is largely seen in women during their reproductive years, as it requires oestrogen to grow. Typically it will go away when estrogen levels drop after menopause.
What are the symptoms of adenomyosis?
Symptoms vary from person to person, and can be mild to severe. Some people may not even experience any symptoms at all, yet examination would reveal they have it.
Adenomyosis symptoms most commonly start occuring in the later childbearing years, but can occur before or after this time period.
Common symptoms include:
- Heavy or extended menstrual bleeding
- Painful cramps
- Blood clots during period
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- Pain during sex
- Tiredness and fatigue during period
What causes adenomyosis?
Research into adenomyosis has yet to find out how or why adenomyosis occurs. There are many different theories on how the cells enter including:
- During surgery, especially surgery on the uterus or other reproductive organs
- In the early development of a foetus
- After childbirth when the uterus is weakened or inflamed
- Stem cells in the uterine muscle wall
- Extra tissues in the uterine wall during development that progress as someone grows into adulthood
If you are experiencing symptoms, then it is important that you talk to your GP about being referred to a specialist.
It may take time to diagnose you with Adenomyosis, and it can involve a physician exam and imaging. Your doctor will likely conduct both a physical and pelvic examination to determine whether your uterus is enlarged or tender.
Some people with adenomyosis can have a uterus that is double or triple the typical size.
It is also common that you may have to get an ultrasound or MRI scan, to determine whether you have the condition and rule out other potential factors.
Depending on the severity of your condition, it will depend on how it is treated. Some people may not even need treatment because their symptoms are so mild.
Other people may have severe symptoms that impact their ability to function normally everyday. Treatment for adenomyosis can include hormone treatments, anti-inflammatory medications, and inserting an intrauterine device (IUD).
In very severe cases, a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) may be performed, however many doctors will often try to find a different solution before suggesting surgery.
Some women may also like to take warm baths and use heat packs to help alleviate the symptoms at home, however this is not a formal treatment.
In most cases adenomyosis is not a life threatening condition, but it can be very painful to live with. It’s important if you are experiencing any of these symptoms that you check in with your doctor.
Sunshine Coast Private Obstetrician and Gynaecologist
Dr Kelvin Larwood is an obstetrician and gynaecologist who owns and operates a private practice in Buderim and Noosa, Sunshine Coast.
Kelvin can help assist with diagnosing and treating your pelvic pain, and is an expert in his field.
You can find out more information about his practice here.