Adenomyosis is a condition that affects the uterus. It can be painful.
What is adenomyosis?
Adenomyosis occurs when the cells that normally line the uterus also grow in the layer of muscle in the wall of the uterus.
Adenomyosis is only seen in women in their reproductive years because it requires the hormone oestrogen to grow. It eventually goes away after menopause when oestrogen production drops.
It can cause enlargement of the uterus and heavy periods.
If you have adenomyosis, you might also have a similar condition called endometriosis.
What causes adenomyosis?
It is not certain how or why the uterus-lining cells enter the muscle wall. It is thought that they might enter:
- during surgery
- early in the development of the foetus
- after childbirth when the wall of the uterus is weakened by inflammation
It sometimes happens after:
- the birth of a baby
- surgery involving the uterus, such as caesarean section or removal of fibroids
What are the symptoms of adenomyosis?
Often, symptoms start late in the childbearing years after women have children. Women with adenomyosis might have:
- heavy periods
- painful periods
- pain during sex
- bleeding between periods
- tiredness from the anaemia caused by blood loss
The symptoms might be mild, but they can be severe enough to interfere with work and enjoyment of life.
How is adenomyosis diagnosed?
Your doctor will talk to you and examine you. You might also be asked to have scans. Adenomyosis often takes time to diagnose.
How is adenomyosis treated?
Adenomyosis can be difficult to treat. It will disappear after menopause so the treatment will depend on your stage of life.
The symptoms can be eased by:
- anti-inflammatory medicines
- warm baths and heat packs
Treatment options include:
- hormone treatment
- insertion of an intrauterine device (IUD) that releases the hormone progesterone
Hysterectomy is an option for women with severe adenomyosis.
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Last reviewed: April 2020