When it comes to misdiagnosed adenomyosis, it poses a particular challenge for women that are struggling with painful symptoms. And I wanted to learn more about why this is the case. What I’ve discovered is that there are a variety of uterine disorders that share similarities to adenomyosis. Meaning they have very similar signs and symptoms, which makes it difficult for medical professionals to diagnose accurately. And, while many women with adenomyosis, experience painful symptoms and serious complications. There are still others that show no visible signs and symptoms. Perhaps understanding more about the diseases that are similar to it and focusing on what makes them different can help with understanding this condition more, thereby decreasing cases of misdiagnosed adenomyosis.
Misdiagnosed Adenomyosis: Diseases Similar to Adenomyosis
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths of the uterus. Additionally, there are four different types of fibroids: intramural, subserosal, submucosal, and pedunculated. The symptoms you experience will often be associated with the classification, size, and location of the fibroid.
Consequently, there are two main reasons adenomyosis is confused with fibroids. The first being that they share similar symptoms. Uterine fibroids contribute to issues with an enlarged, swollen uterus, abnormal bleeding, painful intercourse, unusual weight gain, frequent urination, constipation, bloating, pressure in the pelvis, pelvic pain, leg pain, back pain, and abdominal pain. All of which are similar symptoms commonly associated with adenomyosis.
Additionally, adenomyosis looks like uterine fibroids during a diagnostic ultrasound. Often,when adenomyosis creates a cluster in one central location, a benign tumor known as an adenomyoma will form. Consequently, adenomyomas look similar to fibroids in an ultrasound. Hence why they can easily be diagnosed as fibroids when they aren’t.
In the case of endometrial polyps, these are noncancerous growths that attach to the uterine wall. They are formed by endometrial tissue that usually lines the uterus and range in size from small (think sesame seed) to large (a golf ball). Furthermore, they share similarities with adenomyosis when it comes to the symptoms they cause.
Both conditions contribute to irregularity and abnormality with your menstrual cycle and menstruation. Thus causing erratic timing due to shorter or longer than average cycles. Additionally, periods can vary in length and flow. Meaning you may have a short light period one month, only to experience a heavy, prolonged period the following month.
Irregular Vaginal Bleeding:
Experiencing spotting or bleeding outside of your period.
Struggling to conceive or facing unique challenges when it comes to carrying a full-term pregnancy.
These symptoms mimic those of adenomyosis. And, similar to uterine fibroids, endometrial polyps can appear identical to adenomyomas via ultrasound. Hence leading to issues with misdiagnosed adenomyosis.
When it comes to endometriosis and adenomyosis, both of these disorders share similar symptoms. Additionally, they involve endometrial tissue similar to that found on the uterine wall. But, despite their similarities, these conditions are very different. For instance, endometriosis is a disorder where tissue similar to the endometrial tissue that lines the uterus begins to grow and attach to surfaces and organs outside of the uterus. Whereas adenomyosis involves endometrial tissue that grows in and within the uterine wall.
Furthermore, symptoms such as painful periods, painful intercourse, painful urination, infertility, painful bowel movements, chronic pelvic pain, bloating, irregular periods, lower back pain, and leg pain are shared with both of these diseases. Thus, making it easier for endometriosis to be mistaken for adenomyosis. Which may cause sufferers and medical professionals alike to assume that endometriosis is the underlying cause.
In most cases, doctors will prefer an MRI to diagnose adenomyosis correctly. With an MRI, the doctor has a better view of the uterus. And, can better determine the presence of adenomyosis within the uterine walls. Additional tests such as a proper pelvic exam, lab work, ultrasound, and endometrial biopsy may also be administered.
When it comes to treating adenomyosis, there are non-surgical and surgical options. Now, what your doctor recommends will depend entirely on your current state of health and how advanced your condition is. For many non-surgical options primarily focus on the use of hormonal options such as birth control and IUD for symptom management. On the other hand, surgical options provide more extensive pain relief and symptom reduction but may decrease fertility. These options include partial and full hysterectomy.
Hence, why it’s essential to discuss with your doctor your fertility plans and what options are available for you. Many women achieve success with assisted reproductive therapies such as IVF and IUI.
Improving Your Odds of Proper Diagnosis
While I wish I could give you a solid 5-step plan on how to have adenomyosis adequately diagnosed, I can’t. It’s just not that easy, nor is it that simple. Especially, considering how similar it is to many common women’s health conditions and disorders. And, while doctors are knowledgeable in their expertise. They are still human and fallible. But, there are some habits or attitudes that can help with decreasing misdiagnosis of adenomyosis and increase your chances of getting an accurate diagnosis.
The first and most important thing you can do is to educate yourself and build awareness regarding your health. It starts with knowing your health history and risk factors that increase your risk of adenomyosis. Additionally, tracking and monitoring symptoms can help with showing your doctor a timeline of how long you’ve been struggling with these issues and what you’ve done to improve them.
Furthermore, learning about women’s health and the various diseases and conditions that impact a woman’s health and well-being can make you more aware of abnormalities with your body. In this way, you won’t assume that everything is ok when you begin to display symptoms that are unusual to what you’ve typically experienced. You can instead investigate and meet with your primary care to get concrete answers. Thus, increasing early diagnosis and proper treatment.
Seek Out A Specialist
Additionally, it also helps if you’re working with someone knowledgeable when it comes to women’s health disorders and conditions. Being at a higher risk for adenomyosis due to current symptoms or specific risk factors warrants the necessity of working with a specialist. Since they specialize in this particular disease, they will have the proper diagnostic tools and can recommend the best treatment plan for you. In contrast, general primary care may not be as aware of these women’s specific conditions. Or, how to diagnose and treat them properly, which in turn increases misdiagnosed adenomyosis.
Advocate for Your Health
Lastly, don’t be afraid to stand up for your health and well-being. If your doctor is gaslighting you or not taking your concerns seriously, do not be scared to get a second opinion. Your health is important and you deserve answers. Even if it’s something super simple, you deserve to get to the bottom of it. Additionally, you may find it helpful to educate yourself regarding general diagnostic testing and treatments for adenomyosis diagnosis before your appointment. This way, you have an idea of what to expect, and if they aren’t doing what they should be doing, you can look for another medical professional that will.
The bottom line is that misdiagnosed adenomyosis often occurs because of a lack of awareness regarding this disease. And, it’s similarity to a variety of other women’s reproductive health conditions. Consequently, knowing women’s reproductive health conditions such as adenomyosis can increase early diagnosis and improve treatment options. Furthermore, there’s an increasing need for more research regarding adenomyosis. Especially given the rise of adenomyosis in younger women that haven’t had children. Which, in turn, contradicts the primary thought that it mostly affects women in their 40’s that have had multiple children.
There’s so much more regarding this condition that is necessary for us to uncover. But, taking your part by educating yourself, increasing your awareness, and advocating for your health can help not only with early diagnosis. But, with urging the medical community to do more research and understand more about this unknown condition.
- Healthline | Endometriosis vs. Adenomyosis: Similarities and Differences | medically reviewed by Holly Ernst, PA-C on September 27, 2018; written by Marjorie Hecht
- Web MD | Uterine Polyps
About the Author
Hi, my name is Kathleen but you can call me Kat. I’m a health and wellness professional turned freelance writer and content creator. You can find me on YouTube and Instagram. If you take the opportunity to visit me on my other platforms don’t hesitate to leave a message, I would love to hear from you!
Get updates and my newsletter delivered to your inbox!