Endometriosis and adenomyosis (endometriosis vs adenomyosis) are commonly misunderstood terms for two different medical conditions occurring in the female body in the similar reproductive region. Being able to understand the difference between these conditions may help you when seeking a medical diagnosis and/or deciding upon treatment.
What is the difference between adenomyosis vs endometriosis?
While the two disorders largely occur in the same areas, namely around and in the female reproductive organs, and can co-occur, each condition remains as a separate diagnosis.
Endometriosis is a serious and chronic disorder where the tissues from the endometrial lining grows outside of its home in the uterus. According to latest research, 11% of women are affected. The condition is found to have genetic components as 40 genetic risk factors have been mapped, including some genes which have mutated in a way similar to cancer cells.
In contrast, adenomyosis involves the endometrium itself, or, the inner part of the uterine wall. The endometrial tissue overgrows in the wall of the uterus itself. It can grow in small, focused section or can growth throughout the uterus. Instead of cells from the endometrial lining traveling outside the uterus, they remain inside the uterus and placement can vary within this womb.
In Endometriosis What are the Symptoms?
The two most common symptoms of having endometriosis include pelvic pain and infertility.
As an endo warrior, I would add that general pelvic pain did not come close to a good description of the pain this condition can cause. A more appropriate term might include violent, torrential, stabbing-like pain. The level of pain differs for every sufferer, but it can be so intense as to cause one to pass out or become immobilized.
Other well-documented symptoms could include bloating, abnormal spotting at various time of the cycle (including mid-cycle and/or pre-menstrually) celiac disease or gluten intolerance, allergies, symptoms demonstrated in IBS or even getting sick often.
In Adenomyosis What are the Common Symptoms?
With adenomyosis symptoms can include period pain, bleeding outside of the normal menstrual window, pain in the pelvis and possibly pain with sexual activity. Some women experience something called adenomyosis belly, due to the symptoms of bloating and dysbiosis, similar to the name for this in women with endo, endo belly. No causative relationship has been confirmed between adenomyosis and subfertility and the incidence of infertility in women with adenomyosis has not been concluded.
Receiving a Diagnosis for Adenomyosis and/or Endometriosis
There is a difference as well between an adenomyosis vs endometriosis diagnosis.
While symptomatology can present a strong case for endometriosis, especially when combined with one’s genetic factors, typically a laparoscopy is the gold standard to confirm the condition.
Many times doctors will want to see imagery from a pelvic ultrasound to see if there are any visible growth on the ovaries or in the uterus. This can indicate the presence of ovarian cysts or endometriomas. Endometriomas can indicate a more severe form of endometriosis, such as a stage 3 or stage 4 level of severity.
A doctor who I saw ran a CA-125 blood test, which typically tests for cancer, but at certain levels can help confirm probable endometriosis. For example, if levels are elevated, it indicates a problem, but super high levels typically indicate cancer.
But getting an endometriosis diagnosis can still feel like getting cancer and results can be just as devastating at worst or an annoyance at best.
Cutting edge research focuses on finding less invasive diagnostic tools, such as through reliable biomarkers and biochemical markers.
To diagnose adenomyosis, a doctor may order a pelvic ultrasound, MRI, hysteroscopy or hysterosalpingography. A wavy, or uneven line may appear with TV ultrasound imaging indicating that the uterus cell wall is not as smooth as it should be.
Additional treatments are available but have not widely been studied. These include radiofrequency ablation for focal adenomyosis, balloon thermoablation for diffuse adenomyosis, laparoscopic uterine artery ligation, among others.
Does Allopathic Treatment Differ Between Adenomyosis and Endometriosis?
The two conditions share some similarities in treatment but also differ greatly in some instances.
For example, the standard treatment for symptomatic adenomyosis in women not seeking pregnancy is a hysterectomy (if they are willing to have a hysterectomy). women who may wish a more conservative approach out of quality of life concerns and/or to try an conceive may opt for a more modified surgical intervention.
The medical literature for endometriosis treatment involves excision surgery by a skilled physician in many cases as well, though hysterectomies are more rare for the condition these days.
Medical interventions that have been used in the past, and currently for both cases, do include suppressive hormone treatments and laparoscopy or laparotomy. (A laparoscopy is less invasive than a laparotomy, which involves a much larger surgical opening and a much longer recovery time). Hormone treatments have been prescribed for both conditions since both areas involve hormonal disruptions. Whether this treatment is always appropriate depends upon the situation. (Which is a subject for another post).
Are Holistic Approaches Worth Trying?
Chances are, if you are on this website, then you are at least curious about healing endometriosis holistically. Possibly adenomyosis as well. A Pain in the Endo is all about promising non-invasive ways of helping your body heal from chronic pain and illness so you can get to the business of living your life again.
From my own experience with endometriosis, I was able to see massive improvements over time in regards to my cycle just from nutrition and supplements, exercise, stress management and making other life changes (many of which I write about on this blog).
Over time, I have worked with many holistic practitioners to help fine tune my body’s healing and see improved results.
But don’t get me wrong, I was working closely with M.D.s throughout my holistic journey, and I did eventually have excision surgery. Every situation is unique, and while a holistic approach may help you in the ways you need, others of you will need all of the best resources to reach an optimal level of healing and living.
What does a Holistic Approach Include?
For starters, make sure to head over to my post about endometriosis self care which includes some beginner-type ideas for a holistic body approach.
Typically, a holistic approach for any disease, including a chronic one like endometriosis, will include nutritional and supplemental support, physical support, mind/body connection support, dealing with stress and triggers (physical and emotional) and going toxin free.
You can find some of my posts related to each of these areas with endometriosis and women’s issues in mind:
Supplemental Support: The Best Omega 3s for Immune Health
Nutritional Support: The Simple Truth About Gluten and Endometriosis
Toxin Free Living: Toxin Free Living – 10 Tips To Start For Free
Physical Support: 5 Amazing Benefits of Massage for Endometriosis Plus How To
Mind/Body Support: Be Kind to Yourself Guided Journal – 15 Ways to Respond with Love
Stress Support: Calm an Overactive Mind to Sleep Well – 10 Tips
Living with Vitality: Ways to Feel Beautiful with Chronic Illness 5 Tips
More and more research is coming out helping provide tools for health and wellness professionals learn how to further help women holistically in the areas of nutrition, including to heal gut dysbiosis, immune system supports, adrenal and endocrine supports, and other areas that impact these areas. The field of holistic and integrative medicine continues to provide researched-backed approaches to helping women heal from a root-cause approach.
Frequently Asked Questions About Adenomyosis Endometriosis
Here are some frequently asked questions about each condition:
Is adenomyosis worse than endometriosis?
The best answer is it depends. Some women with adenomyosis and/or endometriosis don’t have any symptoms or mild symptoms without impacts to fertility. Other women may experience a more severe case of one or the other. It is possible to have both conditions as well. Both condition’s symptoms correlate to stages of diagnosis. For example endometriosis and adenomyosis stage 4 is the most severe form.
What is the primary difference between endometriosis and adenomyosis?
Endometriosis involves adhesions from endometrial tissue that has escaped the uterus. Adenomyosis involves issues with endometrial lining of the uterus.
Can adenomyosis be mistaken for endometriosis?
adenomyosis can be mistaken for endometriosis based upon symptoms, because both can cause irregular menstrual bleeding, intense pain, and other discomforts.
What does adenomyosis pain feel like?
Adenomyosis vs endometriosis pain can be difficult to distinguish, depending upon the severity of each condition. Both can cause excruciating pain, or less severe discomforts. Many women are told that period pain is normal, but a normal period should not include intense cramping pain.
Endometriosis and adenomyosis are two conditions that revolve around bodily dysfunction that greatly impacts a woman’s reproductive organs.