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Adenomyosis vs. Endometriosis: Learn the Differences

Posted on February 19, 2024

So many menstrual symptoms can leave you stuck wondering about adenomyosis vs endometriosis diagnosis. That's because, if you experience painful periods, heavy bleeding, and chronic pelvic pain, your symptoms could mean a few different things. First, you could have fibroids. But there are two other diagnoses that might apply: endometriosis, a condition in which endometrial tissue leaves your uterus and implants in other parts of the body. When you start your period, this rogue endometrial tissue sheds as well, causing you to bleed in your pelvis and beyond. This bleeding can leave you with cysts, scar tissue, and adhesions.

Adenomyosis also causes these kinds of symptoms, but it is a separate condition. With adenomyosis, endometrial tissue lodges itself deep in the muscle of the uterus. It does not leave the uterus. Now, you could have both conditions at the same time. Yet, even if that is the case, there are several ways in which these conditions affect you differently. Even if your initial symptoms seem the same.

What is Adenomyosis?

Adenomyosis is a condition that affects your uterus. With this condition, your uterus enlarges as its internal lining (endometrium) starts growing in your muscular uterine wall. Soon, you may experience painful periods. That happens because blood goes through both the walls of your uterus and through your vaginal canal.

What is Endometriosis?

Approximately 11% of women in the US suffer from this condition, according to the Office on Women's Health. When you have endometriosis, you also experience changes in your uterine lining. Here, endometrial tissue grows outside your uterus, possibly involving your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvis. When it's time for your body to shed its uterine lining--during your period--you'll experience extreme pain. This is because, without access to your vaginal canal, tissue that's formed on your other pelvic organs gets stuck.

Adenomyosis vs Endometriosis: Distinguishing Symptoms

As we mentioned, both endometriosis and adenomyosis leave women with pelvic pain and heavy bleeding. What’s different is the timing of that discomfort: women with adenomyosis usually experience that pain around their periods. Women with endometriosis have period pain, for a few days before, during and after their periods. But they also often experience pain with bowel movements and at other times in their cycle. Also, with endometriosis, symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding and menstrual cramps become progressively worse over time. In contrast, adenomyosis can cause uterine enlargement, a symptom more commonly associated with fibroids.

Causes of Adenomyosis vs. Endometriosis

We don't really know what causes either of these conditions. But what we do know is that the possible links to each are slightly different. Let's take a closer look.

What Causes Adenomyosis?

Like uterine fibroids, we don't know the exact causes of adenomyosis. Still, we can identify certain factors that may increase your risk. These include:

  • Previous abdominal surgery or c-section deliver
  • Having entered menopause

What causes Endometriosis?

Here, again, we don't know exactly why women develop endometriosis. Rumors suggest that only women over 35 are affected by endometriosis, yet it can affect any woman who menstruates. Within that large group of women,  we do know that certain groups of people who have a uterus are more likely to end up with endometriosis. Some contributing factors include:

Adenomyosis vs Endometriosis: Clues to the Cause of Your Symptoms I shrink my fibroids naturally

Clearly, both conditions are characterized by uterine tissue that grows outside your uterine. And we don't know exactly what that starts happening. But there are key differences between these conditions that will affect your diagnosis and treatment process. You see, with adenomyosis, uterine tissue penetrates the muscular wall of your uterus, developing inside the tissue. For many women, this triggers symptoms that are far more invasive than those associated with endometriosis.

In fact, with adenomyosis, your period could feel like it's gushing out. This could lead to iron deficiency, anemia and dizziness. And that's on top of the chronic pelvic pain and uncomfortable sex we already discussed. Of course, many of these symptoms might also mean that you have fibroids or endometriosis. And that is why your healthcare provider may go through several diagnostic tests to get you the proper diagnosis.

Adenomyosis vs Endometriosis: Differing Diagnosis Methods

Endometriosis can be tough to diagnose, which is why many women can only confirm they have this condition after laparoscopic surgery (a doctors insert a thin tube with a light and camera into a small incision in your stomach. This tube lets them see the lesions, cysts, and adhesions that confirm this condition. It also helps them identify the location of endometrial tissue, and the size of the deposits that are outside the uterus.

In contrast, women with adenomyosis can usually receive their diagnosis with an MRI or transvaginal ultrasound. These minimally invasive tools can also confirm the scope of your condition: if you have just a few cysts in your uterus, your adenomyosis is considered focal. If the tissue is widespread within your uterus, you will be diagnosed as having diffuse adenomyosis.

Treating Adenomyosis: UAE Can Help

For both endometriosis and adenomyosis, there are a wide variety of treatment options. And many of these options overlap. Your treatment plan could be as simple as taking birth control pills or inserting an IUD.  But some doctors will recommend more invasive treatments, ranging from minor surgery to as serious an intervention as a hysterectomy.

Now, it's true that getting a hysterectomy is the only way to cure these conditions. But there are other options that can help control your symptoms. For women with adenomyosis, there is a newer treatment available: UAE, or Uterine Artery Embolization. (This treatment may also be called UFE, uterine fibroid embolization, but the process is the same.)

With UAE, particles are injected into the uterine artery to block the blood flow to the specific problem area in your uterus. The goal is to deprive the tissue of both blood and oxygen, so your condition will abate. The procedure involves an overnight stay in the hospital.

Our doctors use three types of particles: smaller, normal and larger particles. This new protocol has increased UAE’s effectiveness rate to 80%. For this reason, UAE seems to be an excellent short term treatment option for many women.

If you have adenomyosis and are seeking relief, we're here to help. Go online and schedule a consultation at our Houston area adenomyosis center. Or, to speak with one of our doctors, please give us a call anytime at 713-575-3686.

Sources: ABC Everday, Health.com

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