Adenomyosis is a non-life-threatening condition characterized by heavy periods and a larger-than-normal uterus. The condition occurs when endometrial tissue (the tissue lining the inside of your uterus that thickens and sheds during monthly menstrual periods) extends into the walls of the uterus. A link between adenomyosis and pregnancy exists, as it is most common in women in their 40s and 50s who have had at least one child.
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Some women with adenomyosis have no apparent symptoms. But that is not the case for many. When adenomyosis symptoms do appear, the most common ones include:
- Prolonged, heavy menstrual bleeding
- Menstrual cramps that last throughout your period and get worse over the years
- Pain during intercourse
- Bloating or tenderness in the pelvic region caused by an enlarged uterus
The cause of adenomyosis is unknown. However, it is understood that growth of the endometrial tissue depends on estrogen. When estrogen hormone levels drop at menopause, adenomyosis goes away. In addition, there are a few theories as to what causes adenomyosis. These include:
- Formation during fetal development: Some experts believe the endometrial tissue could form inside the uterine wall during the formation of the uterus in the fetus.
- Invasive endometrial growth: Some experts believe the endometrial cells invade the uterine muscle due to procedures such as C-section or the removal of uterine fibroids. In this case, the incision into the uterus would transfer endometrial cells into the uterine wall.
- Childbirth, causing inflammation: Still another theory is that inflammation of the uterine lining after the baby is born might disrupt the normal boundary between the endometrial cells of the uterine lining and the uterine wall.
- Stem cells: Finally, there is a theory that somehow the stem cells from bone marrow make their way into the uterine wall.
There are a number of risk factors that can make a woman more susceptible to developing adenomyosis, including:
- Age: The condition is most common in women ages 40-60.
- Previous childbirth: Women who have had children are at a higher risk of developing adenomyosis.
- Previous surgery involving the uterus: Surgeries, such as C-section, dilation and curettage (D&C), or the removal of fibroids, can increase the risk of adenomyosis.
- Short menstrual cycles
- Starting menstruation at a young age
There are currently no known preventive measures you can take for adenomyosis, other than choosing not to get pregnant and give birth. This is not an option for women who wish to have children.
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.