Adenomyosis is perhaps one of the less known female reproductive conditions. It shares symptoms with the much-highlighted endometriosis, but both affect different parts of the body and require different treatments.
Here’s what you need to know. Adenomyosis affects cells on the lining of the womb, growing within the muscles of the uterus. This disorder leads to enlargement of the uterus and painful and heavy periods which increase the risk of anemia- which occurs when the body doesn’t have enough iron-rich red blood cells. Those with the condition may feel chronically fatigued or cold.
Besides anemia and chronic fatigue, adenomyosis may also limit the ability of women to conceive. It tends to affect women who have had at least one child. Just like endometriosis, which affects different parts away from the uterus, women with adenomyosis may not have any symptoms of the underlying condition.
Doctors do not know fully how adenomyosis arises but it’s possible that during regular menstruation as the cells break away from the lining of the womb, some may find themselves within the muscle. It is thought that heavy short cycles can predispose one to adenomyosis. It is also likely that as women get older, they are more likely to develop adenomyosis.
Before diagnosing adenomyosis was difficult since it was only discovered after the uterus was removed. But diagnostic advancements have been made and currently, we can see adenomyosis on ultrasound and MRI scans and effectively diagnose it.
Since adenomyosis involves the cells of the womb lining, they may not be removed from the womb. We can use hormonal medication to control the symptoms. However, women who have completed childbearing may decide to remove their uterus.
Dr Muteshi is a consultant obstetrician gynaecologist and fertility expert at Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi