Adenomyosis (ad-uh-no-my-O-sis) is a condition in which endometrial tissue, which normally lines the uterus, is present within and grows into the muscular walls of the uterus. This is most likely to happen late in your childbearing years and after you've had children.
Adenomyosis isn't the same as endometriosis — a condition in which the uterine lining becomes implanted outside the uterus — although women with adenomyosis often also have endometriosis. The cause of adenomyosis remains unknown, but the disease typically disappears after menopause. For women who experience severe discomfort from adenomyosis, there are treatments that can help, but hysterectomy is the only cure.
Although adenomyosis can be quite painful, the condition is generally harmless.
With adenomyosis, the same tissue that lines the uterus (endometrial tissue) is present within and grows into the muscular walls of your uterus. ...
In some women, adenomyosis is "silent" — causing no signs or symptoms — or only mildly uncomfortable. But other women with adenomyosis may experience:
Your uterus may increase to double or triple its normal size. Although you might not know if your uterus is enlarged, you may notice that your lower abdomen seems bigger or feels tender.
When to see a doctor
The cause of adenomyosis isn't known. Expert theories about a possible cause include:
Regardless of how adenomyosis develops, its growth depends on the circulating estrogen in a woman's body. When estrogen production decreases at menopause, adenomyosis goes away.
Risk factors for adenomyosis include:
Although not harmful, the pain and excessive bleeding associated with adenomyosis can have a negative effect on your lifestyle. You may find yourself avoiding activities that you previously enjoyed because you have no idea when or where you might start bleeding. Painful periods can cause you to miss work or school and can strain relationships. Recurring pain can lead to depression, irritability, anxiety, anger and feelings of helplessness. That's why it's important to seek medical evaluation if you suspect you may have adenomyosis.
If you experience prolonged, heavy bleeding, chronic anemia may result.
Preparing for your appointment
Your first appointment will be with either your primary care physician or gynecologist. Because appointments can be brief, and it can be difficult to remember everything you want to discuss, it's a good idea to prepare in advance of your appointment.
What you can do
For adenomyosis, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Make sure that you understand everything that your doctor tells you. Ask your doctor to repeat information, if needed, or ask follow-up questions for clarification.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Your doctor may suspect adenomyosis based on:
In rare instances, your doctor may take a biopsy of endometrial tissue — a sample of cells from your uterine lining for testing — to verify that your abnormal uterine bleeding isn't associated with any other serious condition. However, such a biopsy won't help your doctor confirm a diagnosis of adenomyosis. The only way to be certain of a diagnosis of adenomyosis is to examine uterine tissue using a microscope after removal of the uterus (hysterectomy).
Many women have other uterine diseases that cause signs and symptoms similar to adenomyosis, making adenomyosis more difficult to diagnose. Such conditions include fibroid tumors (leiomyomas), uterine cells growing outside the uterus (endometriosis) and growths in the uterine lining (endometrial polyps). Your doctor may diagnose adenomyosis only after he or she determines there are no other causes for your signs and symptoms.
Although a blood test won't indicate whether you have adenomyosis, your doctor may suggest testing to assess your menstrual blood loss.
Treatments and drugs
Adenomyosis usually goes away after menopause, so treatment may depend on how close you are to that stage of life.
Treatment options for adenomyosis include:
Lifestyle and home remedies
To reduce cramping and pelvic pain associated with adenomyosis, try these self-care measures:
Last Updated: 2010-02-20
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