What Is Adenomyosis?

Did you know that women are commonly affected by numerous reproductive tract conditions? These can often occur during the childbearing years and sometimes beyond. Adenomyosis is one such condition that can result in uncomfortable symptoms such as heavy periods, severe cramping, and painful sex. 

Adenomyosis is a condition that occurs when the inner lining of your uterus, also known as endometrial tissue, grows into the muscular wall of your uterus. This tissue causes the uterus to become enlarged to double or even triple its normal size as the tissue grows larger.  Even though the tissue is displaced, it thickens, breaks down, and bleeds during your menstrual cycle, which causes pain that is often much more severe than with a regular period.

Women who have had at least one pregnancy are most commonly affected by adenomyosis. If you are concerned about having this condition, you should be aware of the symptoms you may be experiencing.

Adenomyosis Symptoms

Although symptoms can vary between women and range from mild to severe, some of the common issues associated with adenomyosis are: 

  • Painful periods
  • Heavy bleeding during or in between your periods
  • Abdominal pressure and bloating 

Symptoms can start out mild or barely noticeable and increase in severity, potentially inhibiting your quality of life. These can also be symptoms of other conditions, like uterine fibroids or endometriosis. We recommend consulting with a specialist to get an accurate diagnosis. 

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Adenomyosis vs. Endometriosis

While adenomyosis sounds similar to endometriosis, adenomyosis and endometriosis are two different conditions. The main difference between adenomyosis and endometriosis is where the endometrial tissue is displaced. 

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue that should only be in the uterus grows outside of it and is found in other areas of the body. The most common locations for endometriosis are on your ovaries, fallopian tubes, or other organs not located in the pelvic area. Adenomyosis is caused by the endometrial tissue growing into the muscles inside your uterus. Even though you may not be sure what the endometrium is, you’ve likely seen it during your menstrual period when the tissue inside the uterus is shed. This lining can spread to different areas, which can cause endometriosis and adenomyosis, which are different but related conditions. You can have both conditions at the same time. 

Adenomyosis vs. Fibroids

Another common question is about the difference between adenomyosis and uterine fibroids. When comparing adenomyosis vs. fibroids, it’s important to keep track of your symptoms, so when you consult with your doctor, you can provide them with that information to aid in getting an accurate diagnosis.

While adenomyosis is endometrial tissue that grows into the wall of the uterus, uterine fibroids are benign tumors made up of fibrous tissue and smooth muscle cells that can grow in or on your uterus. Fibroids can vary in size from a tiny pea to as large as a melon and may grow individually or in clusters. Although some women don’t experience any issues from fibroids at all, others find their lives severely impacted.

Common fibroid symptoms include:

  • Heavy and prolonged menstruation
  • Anemia, which can lead to fatigue
  • Constipation 
  • Stomach swelling

Fibroids have the potential to damage surrounding organs and impact fertility. We provide resources, like our quiz below, to help you better understand what might be causing your symptoms so you can get the care you need. 

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What Causes Adenomyosis?

Unfortunately, adenomyosis causes are unknown. We know that it is most commonly diagnosed in women in their later childbearing years and tends to resolve after menopause. Some studies suggest that hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, may be a factor. 

One theory links adenomyosis and childbirth, while another theory proposes that stem cells from bone marrow may invade the muscles of the uterus. It is also suggested that this condition may start out when endometrial tissue is placed in the uterine muscle during the development of the fetus. Regardless of how the condition develops, it can continue to grow based on the amount of estrogen present in the system.

Adenomyosis Diagnosis

Adenomyosis can be challenging to diagnose because the symptoms are similar to several other reproductive tract conditions.  If your doctor suspects you may have adenomyosis, they will likely order an ultrasound or MRI to look for signs of it. This can also rule out uterine fibroids, endometriosis, or other types of growths that may explain your symptoms. The reality is that your doctor may only be able to diagnose adenomyosis after ruling out other potential causes.

Adenomyosis Treatment

Adenomyosis often goes untreated, most likely due to the fact that women who have been diagnosed with adenomyosis are often presented with limited treatment options. Some women are told that hysterectomy, the complete surgical removal of the uterus, is their only available option. However, USA Fibroids Centers offer the leading, non-surgical treatment for Adenomyosis, known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). UFE can also resolve your symptoms and get you back to your daily routine quickly. 

Adenomyosis Treatment Options

Anti-inflammatory medications: NSAIDs like Ibuprofen or Naproxen may be prescribed to help manage any painful symptoms before and during your period. Although NSAIDs can help treat your adenomyosis symptoms, this method does not treat the disease itself.

Hormone therapy: Your doctor may suggest taking birth control pills or trying a hormone-releasing IUD to help control heavy periods. However, as with anti-inflammatory medications, hormone therapy only aims to provide symptomatic relief.

Hysterectomy: Although this is an effective and permanent solution for adenomyosis, it has several drawbacks. First of all, removing the uterus results in infertility, which can be devastating if you want children. Also, this major surgery involves risks such as excessive bleeding, blood clots, infection, and an adverse reaction to general anesthesia. Hysterectomy requires a one-to-two day hospital stay, followed by a lengthy recovery of six to eight weeks.

Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE): Although UFE has most often been associated with treating uterine fibroids, it can also be beneficial for adenomyosis. Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a minimally invasive procedure with a much shorter recovery time. In fact, most women are back to normal activities after only one week. 

At USA Fibroid Centers, UFE is performed by our expert interventional radiologists. They specialize in using advanced imaging techniques to diagnose and treat uterine fibroids and other reproductive tract conditions. During the UFE procedure, the IR will use ultrasound to guide a tiny catheter into the blood vessels that supply blood to the adenomyosis tissue. Next, embolic particles are injected through the catheter to block the blood flow, which usually alleviates your symptoms. The procedure is performed under light sedation with local anesthesia, and you can go home the same day. 

Adenomyosis Treatment at USA Fibroid Centers 

We believe that no woman should have to live with painful symptoms. We offer UFE, a non-surgical treatment for women with adenomyosis and fibroids that can help you find freedom from your symptoms without the scarring, stitches, or a long recovery. To discover if UFE is the right approach for you, schedule a consultation with one of our specialists or give us a call at 888.615.2555 today.  

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Life with fibroids can be painful and challenging. Timely detection and treatment of fibroids can relieve symptoms, as well as reduce your risk for hysterectomy.

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