What Is Adenomyosis?
As if monthly shedding of your uterine lining wasn’t enough of an inconvenience, many women suffer from a variety of uterus diseases as well. Although many of them are not life-threatening, they can cause unpleasant symptoms, disrupt daily life, and even negatively affect your sex life. One such disease is called adenomyosis.
Adenomyosis is a condition in which the endometrium, or the inner lining of the uterus, breaks through into the deeper muscle layer of your uterus, called the myometrium. Although benign, this condition can be debilitating enough to affect your quality of life. It can be diffuse, occurring all over the uterus, or it can be localized to one area, which is called focal adenomyosis.
Causes? A Few Good Guesses
There are also other hypotheses as to the cause of adenomyosis. Some of the theories include:
- Uterine inflammation during childbirth. Your uterus may become inflamed post-partum, causing a break in the boundary of cells lining the uterus.
- Invasive tissue growth. An invasion of endometrial cells into the lining of your uterus can occur from incisions during surgery, such as a C-section. These cells may take root and grow outside their normal environment.
- Developmental origins. The invading cells may have been deposited while the uterus and other reproductive organs were forming in utero.
- Stem cell origins. Stem cells from bone marrow can migrate throughout your body. These cells may inadvertently become endometrial cells.
Regardless of the cause of the displacement, the growth of the endometrial cells in the myometrium fluctuates with hormone levels. This is one of the reasons that hormone therapy is a mainstay of treatment for adenomyosis.
Symptoms Include Pain, But So Much More
Symptoms of adenomyosis can resemble other uterus diseases like leiomyoma, uterine fibroids, or myometrial cysts. Your specific history and an OB/GYN exam provide a clearer picture for a proper diagnosis of adenomyoma. Some risk factors that may predispose you to developing adenomyosis include being middle-aged, having had previous uterine surgery like a C-section or fibroid removal, and having had children.
Additionally, symptoms are not always characteristic of just one disease. Pain and discomfort range from mild to severe. Some of the other common symptoms include:
- Sharp knife-like pain or cramping in your lower abdomen during menstruation (dysmenorrhea)
- Lower abdominal pressure or tenderness
- Bloating before your period
- Heavy and prolonged period
- Frequent pain and heavy bleeding
- Blood clots
- Spotting between periods
- Pain before, during, or after sex (dyspareunia)
Even though the symptoms are troubling, the complications may have a bigger impact on your life. Heavy and prolonged periods may lead to chronic anemia. Adenomyosis may have an impact on fertility and the constant pain can lead to depression, irritability, anxiety and a feeling of helplessness.
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