Adenomyosis is not as well-known as other conditions that affect women’s reproductive systems, though the pain women experience can be life-altering.
If you’ve experienced symptoms like cramping or prolonged bleeding during menstruation, it’s a good idea to ask your OB-GYN—what is adenomyosis?
Adenomyosis is a condition that causes the tissue from the lining of your uterus to grow into your uterine wall.
Patient knowledge matters
As an obstetrician and gynecologist, my goal is not just to treat but also to educate. In this article, I’ll explain adenomyosis and its diagnosis and treatment in simple terms, sharing what I’ve learned as a medical professional.
Studies have consistently demonstrated that patient education improves health outcomes.¹ Today, I’d like to provide some clarity about this condition for women who have been diagnosed or are likely to be diagnosed with adenomyosis.
Adenomyosis should be treated right away
Adenomyosis occurs when the tissue inside the uterus starts growing into the muscular wall. It causes symptoms including
- heavy periods;
- bad cramps; and
- pelvic pain.
These signs can be confusing because they overlap with other conditions. So, paying attention to your body and talking openly to your doctor about your symptoms is important.
Adenomyosis can cause long-term issues
Painful symptoms are reason enough to seek diagnosis and treatment, but there are also long-term health complications that the condition may cause in some women.
1. Chronic pelvic pain
One of the primary symptoms of adenomyosis is chronic pelvic pain, which can significantly impact a person’s quality of life in the long term.
Adenomyosis often causes heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding, leading to anemia over time due to iron loss. Anemia causes symptoms like fatigue, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
3. Infertility in severe cases
While adenomyosis doesn’t always cause infertility, severe cases can lead to difficulty conceiving. That happens when adenomyosis interferes with embryo implantation and proper placenta development, increasing the risk of miscarriage.²
Issues are preventable under the care of qualified OB-GYN
I think it’s important to take these long-term issues seriously, which is why I strongly recommend anyone who thinks they may have adenomyosis to seek out the opinion of an OB-GYN. Don’t hesitate to contact your primary care physician for a referral or contact a reputable OB-GYN practice directly.
How we diagnose adenomyosis
If you visit your OB-GYN because you think you may have adenomyosis, we’ll use tests like ultrasounds and MRIs. Sometimes, a small tissue sample is needed.
But one of the most important things is what you tell us. A full description of symptoms helps your OB-GYN put together a more accurate picture of what’s happening in your body and accelerates diagnosis and treatment.
Adenomyosis is common, but we don’t know how common
One study from 2010 found that about 20% of women have adenomyosis. The study was limited because it looked only at symptomatic women attending a gynecology clinic.³
Many women don’t experience symptoms
Around one-third of women with adenomyosis never experience symptoms. That makes it hard for doctors to know the true number of women who experience adenomyosis.
Here’s my advice as an experienced OB-GYN: if you’ve been experiencing cramps or pelvic pain, make an appointment with your doctor. They’ll be able to walk you through the next steps, and you can feel better knowing you’re looking out for your health.
Adenomyosis is benign—not cancerous
I get this question sometimes, so I’d like to clarify it. Adenomyosis is not cancerous and doesn’t directly cause cancer.
Of course, you should still take the condition seriously.
Treatment options for adenomyosis
Depending on your preferences and the severity of your adenomyosis, an OB-GYN will probably start with one of three treatment options. There’s also a final option for more severe cases that I’ll get to in a moment.
- Birth control
- Tranexamic acid
For mild cases, anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen can be enough to control the pain. Typically, an OB-GYN will recommend you start taking an anti-inflammatory a day or two before your period begins and then continue to take it throughout your period.
2. Hormonal treatment
Birth control pills, hormone patches, or vaginal rings can be used to reduce the bleeding and pain linked to adenomyosis. Methods that cause you to suppress menstruation, like intrauterine devices or continuous-use birth control pills, may also provide relief.
3. Tranexamic acid
This medication is used to reduce the risk of blood clots and control bleeding. It’s often used to treat heavy periods. Tranexamic acid is also a nonhormonal medication, which makes it ideal for women who cannot use hormonal treatments.
Severe cases of adenomyosis may require procedures
As a last resort, a doctor might recommend a hysterectomy. Again, this is not the preferred treatment method, but it will eliminate severe symptoms of adenomyosis.
Fortunately, your OB-GYN is there to help. Dealing with adenomyosis can be tough emotionally and physically, and that’s why we’re here to offer medical and emotional support for women who deal with adenomyosis’s worst symptoms.
Contact Plaza OB-GYN for help with adenomyosis
By learning about adenomyosis, you can get ahead of the onset of symptoms with effective treatment. Remember, you’re not alone—your OBGYN is here to guide you every step of the way.
If you’re in the Houston area and want to set up a consultation or have a question for us, call our practice at (713) 522-3333.
Isam Balat, M.D.
Chief Physician, Plaza OB-GYN
- Gold D and McClung M. Approaches to Patient Education: Emphasizing the Long-Term Value of Compliance and Persistence. 2005. Available from: https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(05)01201-5/fulltext
- Günther V, Allahqoli L, Gitas G, Maass N, Tesch K, Ackermann J, Rosam P, Mettler L von Otte S, and Alkatout I, Impact of Adenomyosis on Infertile Patients—Therapy Options and Reproductive Outcomes. 2022. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9775960/
- J. Naftalin, W. Hoo, K. Pateman, D. Mavrelos, T. Holland, D. Jurkovic. How common is adenomyosis? A prospective study of prevalence using transvaginal ultrasound in a gynecology clinic. Oup.com. 2012. Available from: https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/27/12/3432/652839