Adenomyosis is a difficult disorder to diagnosis, and your doctor recognizing its potential presence relies largely on the symptoms you relay. Although the exact cause is unknown, it develops when endometrial cells (uterine lining) invade the uterine muscle (myometrial cells). Eventually, it can cause more serious problems. Here’s a look at the symptoms and complications associated with adenomyosis.
Range of Severity
Adenomyosis varies for each woman it affects. For some women, it is so severe as to interfere in everyday life, while other women may experience a few mild issues, and still others don’t even realize there is a problem. In fact, current research suggests younger women than were previously thought are subject to adenomyosis; they are simply unaware of its presence because of the limited symptoms that occur originally.
Signs and Symptoms
Dysmenorrhea, or menstrual cramps, is a common culprit of women who experience symptomatic adenomyosis. While it is not uncommon for women to experience cramping during their menstrual period, particularly at the beginning of the period, adenomyotic dysmenorrhea is often particularly brutal. It may last throughout the entire period, characterized by sharp, knife-like pains. These cramps may continue to get worse as you get older.
Your menstrual cycle may also change with the development of adenomyosis. Some women report that their period becomes longer than normal. Others experience much heavier periods than they are used to. Another sign of adenomyosis is the presence of blood clots in your menstrual blood. Nausea and vomiting are a possibility as well. As the disease becomes worse, you may notice that your abdomen is uncomfortable. You may even be able to see a visible swelling in your lower abdomen as your uterus becomes enlarged. Sexual intercourse may become uncomfortable. Your uterus may be tender during a pelvic exam.
Adenomyosis is strongly related to the estrogen in a woman’s body. In fact, some experts have reported a correlation between adenomyosis and women with more estrogen than normal. With each menstrual cycles’ flux of estrogen, the endometrial tissue tends to become more and more invasive. This means that the longer you have adenomyosis, the more serious it gets (thus, the increased intensity of dysmenorrhea with age). In addition, the endometrial cells are designed to harden, break down, and shed each month during your period. Their displacement does not discourage this natural tendency, and it is this that can be so damaging to the uterus, causing it to harden or enlarge.
One of the most difficult complications of adenomyosis is the potential for miscarriage. (It is difficult to say if there is a connection between adenomyosis and fertility, because endometriosis tends to occur in tandem and it can interfere with fertility.) Adenomyosis interferes with the uterus’ normal ability to expand and contract; it grows stiff, and so as a fetus grows, it cannot stretch with the fetus, ultimately causing miscarriage. Alternatively, pregnancy can cause the uterus to rupture. Other complications include a potential to develop anemia if your periods are continuously very long and/or very heavy.
Finally, the frequent or intense pain that can develop as a result of adenomyosis dysmenorrhea can be a heavy psychological burden. Without relief, constant pain can lead to isolation, difficulty at work or school, and even make activities unenjoyable. Ongoing and intense discomfort may lead to overwhelming feelings of anxiety, depression, or anger. If you think you have adenomyosis, talk to a doctor about how to get past the pain and get back to your life.