Whether you have the condition yourself and are looking for answers, or if you are just curious about what an atrophic uterus is, we will provide you with all you need to know.
This is a serious condition which does not get the coverage it deserves, but luckily we are here to shed light on everything there is to know about having an atrophic uterus.
The first thing we will look at is what an atrophic uterus actually is. Then, we will look at what causes it, its symptoms and what you can do to about it.
What is an atrophic uterus?
The word atrophy refers to the decrease in size or wasting away of a body part or tissue. This can lead to it reducing in strength, or becoming weaker.
The uterus or the womb is a part of the female reproductive system. It is located between the bladder and the rectum and houses a growing fetus during pregnancy. It is here that menstruation occurs and is the largest reproductive organ in the female body.
An atrophic uterus is, therefore, a uterus which has decreased in size, typically in females over the age of 45. This shortening of the uterus usually occurs during or after menopause and can be quite alarming if you don’t know what to expect.
How Atrophic Uterus Develops
During menopause, the period in a women’s life between the ages of 45 and 55 where she has stopped having a monthly menstrual cycle, her ovaries begin to produce less and less estrogen.
Estrogens are an essential group of hormones which are responsible for the regulation of reproductive cycles and the development of the female secondary characteristics such as pubic hair and breasts. These hormones also affect the urinary tract, bones, the muscular system, and the cardiovascular system.
In the uterus, estrogen works to thicken the endometrium lining when you begin to ovulate. This strengthens and toughens the uterus in preparation for pregnancy every month. If no eggs are fertilized during this time, the uterine lining sheds and blood and other tissue are expelled from the vagina. This cycle continues over and over again until you finally get pregnant, or up until menopause.
During menopause, the body does not need to maintain its reproductive cycle anymore. So, it gradually reduces the number of eggs released from the ovaries, along with sex hormones such as estrogen, in a stage known as the perimenopause stage.
As your body prepares for actual menopause, where no eggs are produced, and estrogen production has declined significantly, the function of your sex organs begins to change or slow down. During this time, self-care and diet become super crucial as nutrient deficiency along with hormone imbalance can lead to the shrinkage of your uterus, causing atrophy.
Other Factors for Atrophic Uterus
There are factors besides menopause that can contribute to an atrophic uterus. These are mainly as a result of decreased estrogen production. Some of these factors include:
Extreme and excessive exercise
Vigorous training or over-exercising can contribute to an atrophic uterus. Exercises which put a lot of pressure on the abdomen and pelvic region can affect estrogen production. This is especially likely when the proper techniques are not observed and can do more harm than good on the entire body.
Chemotherapy is one of the most popular means of treating various cancers. However, during this time, estrogen levels decrease in response to this treatment.
Chemotherapy has been known to damage the ovaries of pre-menopausal women so they no longer make estrogen. When estrogen levels drop, the chances of developing atrophic uterus will increase significantly.
Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia can contribute to hormone imbalance, muscle degeneration, and low bone density. This can, in turn, contribute to developing an atrophic uterus.
Hyperthyroidism and conditions which affect the thyroid can have an effect on menopause, and by extension estrogen production. In a research study conducted on women with severe menopausal symptoms and thyroid condition, treating the thyroid issue improved menopausal symptoms such as muscle and joint weakness and atrophy.
Pituitary gland dysfunction
The pituitary gland present in your brain is responsible for regulating all the hormones either directly or indirectly in your body. When the functioning of the pituitary gland declines with age or suffers from dysfunction, this can cause an estrogen imbalance will can contribute to developing an atrophic uterus.
Turner syndrome is a genetic defect which affects every 1 in 2500 girls where puberty is delay and stature is stunted. Estrogen production is also low which causes a delay in puberty and ovulation, and puts them at risk of developing brittle bones or osteoporosis.
Other factors which can influence estrogen production include:
• Autoimmune disease
• Chronic kidney disease
The most common signs and symptoms of an atrophic uterus are pain and discomfort. Bleeding and spotting may also occur as a result of atrophy of the endometrium which lines the walls of the uterus. Headache, fatigue, and tenderness in the breast are also signs of an atrophic uterus.
The symptoms of an atrophic uterus are not exclusive to atrophy and are very similar to menopausal symptoms. However, prolonged pain, cramping, and discomfort should not be ignored.
The only way to know for sure is to check with a doctor who will perform a series of tests before diagnosing you with this condition. From there, he/she will help to come up with treatment options.
Restoring your uterus after its atrophy can be very difficult. The truth is, there is no cure and it will never go back to its original state. At this point, all you can do is seek relief from its symptoms.
The most popular treatment method is estrogen hormone therapy to help to increase estrogen levels and prevent these symptoms. You may also incorporate foods such as flax seeds, strawberries, pistachio and walnut into your diet which can help to improve estrogen levels. A glass of red wine here and there can also help to regulate hormones levels (plus it’s great for cardiovascular health and preventing breast cancer.
The Final Word
Atrophy is a pretty common occurrence in women over the age of 45. Understanding how to manage it and knowing what to expect can help you to prepare for that possibility.
Staying healthy is the most important thing you can do in decreasing the likelihood of developing an atrophic uterus. Remember that prevention is always better than cure, so regulating estrogen levels is crucial.
Once you bear these things in mind, you will be able to handle it when it comes your way and lead a healthy, worry-free life.