Are you struggling with abnormally painful periods, heavy flow, bleeding at irregular times or feeling like your bloating or lower abdomen is growing despite the same diet and exercise habits? These may be signs that there are more than the average period problems happening. In some cases, these painful and debilitating periods can be due to elevated prostaglandins, endometriosis, estrogen dominance and a condition I will go further into below called adenomyosis.
What is Adenomyosis?
Adenomyosis is a condition that enlarges the uterus caused by growth of endometrial tissue into the uterine tissue. This means that the lining of the uterus grows into the wall and muscle of the uterus. The tissue keeps working just like the uterine lining, so it gets thicker and then breaks down every month during your period.
It is not clear at all how common this condition is as many women actually do not experience any symptoms. There are estimates though that range from 5-70%, however 10-30% is probably more accurate given it seems to be an under-diagnosed condition. It is most common in women who have had children.
Signs and symptoms of Adenomyosis:
• Heavy periods and prolonged bleeding
• Painful periods (Dysmenorrhea)
• Clots in the period blood
• Bleeding between periods
• Bowel issues
• Pain with sex
• Chronic pelvic pain
• Back pain
• Extreme pelvic pressure
If you’re main issue is heavy bleeding without many of these other symptoms, I encourage you to reach out as this could be due to other reasons due to a hormonal imbalance. These could include oestrogen dominance, hypothyroidism, fibroids or even iron deficiency. Do not attempt to self-diagnose adenomyosis. The condition can have the same symptoms as other health problems like endometriosis.
Why is Adenomyosis so painful?
Heavy periods are thought to occur in more than half of women with adenomyosis, however pain is only present in a third. The tissue that is within the muscle wall of the uterus responds to hormones in the same way as your normal uterine lining does. This means it can expand, grow and bleed, all of which can be quite painful.
What is the difference between Adenomyosis and Endometriosis?
Endometriosis has similar symptoms as adenomyosis, including pelvic pain and painful periods. The big difference is where the lesions or endometrial tissue are found. In endometriosis the tissue occurs outside the uterus. In adenomyosis, the tissue is inside the muscle wall of the uterus.
Both are painful, can result in heavy bleeding and it is possible to have both at the same time.
It can be more difficult to diagnose adenomyosis than it is to diagnose endometriosis. The first step is to rule out other causes of painful, heavy periods.
How to treat and manage Adenomyosis.
There are nutrition and lifestyle practices that can help reduce pain, improve hormonal health, lower inflammation and improve health outcomes.
Unfortunately, the Pill, Mirena and IUD’s are all commonly prescribed to treat women’s hormonal imbalances. Please know there are side effects and risks with any of these and its important to know that if you are considering using these to “manage” symptoms that you are not treating the underlying cause. Therefore, the condition still exists even though the symptoms may be less.