Women's health issues have been having their day in the sun lately, with conditions such as uterine fibroids and endometriosis becoming mainstream health topics. This has been great news for the general public who, armed with information, have been able to better access care and treatment for their symptoms.
However, there are still some conditions that remain relatively unknown despite their high occurrence in the general population. One such condition is Adenomyosis. It is speculated that 1 in 10 women have it, and yet most of us haven't even heard if it.
So what exactly is adenomyosis? Here's the rundown on the condition, it's symptoms, and what to do if you think you may have it.
What is Adenomyosis?
To understand adenomysis, you need to be familiar with some parts of the female reproductive system. The uterus is a part of this system, and has a lining that is known as the endometrium. The uterine wall is made of muscle called the myometrium. Adenomyosis is when the endometrial lining breaches the muscular uterine wall. So the tissue from the uterine lining embeds itself into the walls of the uterus which can be quite painful for those suffering with this condition.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms can include abdominal pain and cramping, bloating, pressure in the abdomen, and heavy menstrual periods. People suffering from adenomyosis may also have symptoms that mimic IBS, with some discomfort during sexual intercourse or elimination. According to WebMD approximately one third of women may not even have symptoms. Due to it's similarity and co-occurrence with other conditions (such as endometriosis and uterine fibroids), it is often undiagnosed.
What is it caused by?
There is currently no definitive cause, however there has been some research to suggest that hormones may play a role. Specific hormones thought to play a role include estrogen, prolactin, progresterone and follicle-stimulating hormone. It seems to be a condition to occur later in life, in women who have had children already. Having had a C-section at some point appears to be a risk factor, as the procedure itself breaks through the uterine wall.
What to do if you think you might have it
If you or your doctor thinks you may have adenomyosis they may initially perform a physical exam. This allows the doctor to check for swelling or tenderness in the uterus. Further testing may include an ultrasound or MRI. To determine whether you have this condition, the doctor will need to be able to see the wall of the uterus and detect whether there is endometrial tissue invading the muscle.
How to Treat it
There are a variety of treatments that can be used to tackle this illness depending on the severity. On the simple end, treatments can include the use of heating pads and anti-inflammatory medications to cope with the discomfort. In the case of severe symptoms, doctors may use hormonal methods, or even endometrial ablation. Endometrial ablation is the removal of the uterine lining. Another treatment is Uterine Artery Embolization. According to WebMD this treatment uses tiny particles to block blood flow to the uterine lining. An extreme solution to adenomyosis is complete removal of the uterus, also known as a hysterectomy.
So if you or a friend are suffering from these symptoms, it might be a good idea to check with your doctor or gynecologist about adenomyosis. Women's health issues can be confusing and difficult to diagnose, however the more informed we all become the better. No one should need to suffer needlessly due to a lack of knowledge. Many of these conditions can be treated, and dramatic improvements in quality of life can be found as a result.