Thickening or endometrial hyperplasia of the uterus lining is a gynecological problem that affects many women. The endometrium is the lining of the uterus that grows and thinckens each month, and each month it is eliminated trough menstrual bleeding.
Causes of thickening of the uterus lining
All changes in the uterus lining are regulated by two hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen builds the endometrium while progesterone takes care of its growth. Hormonal imbalances, like high levels of estrogen and low levels of progesterone, can lead to uncontrolled cell growth in the uterus lining. If endometrial hyperplasia is not treated, it can lead to even more abnormal cell growth and potentially to cancer.
As for the reasons why this occurs, menopause, a history of irregular menstrual cycles, problems with ovaries, obesity and diabetes are the most common ones. Sometimes hormone replacement therapy causes it too.
Symptoms of thickening of the uterus lining
Since the uterus is an internal organ, it is not easy to physically notice there is something wrong with the endometrium. However, some of the symptoms may indicate the problem, and if they occur, it is important to see a gynecologist and check it. Those symptoms may include lower abdominal pain, bleeding or spotting between periods, heavy and prolonged periods, unusual and heavy vaginal discharge.
Diagnose and treatment for thickening of the uterus lining
Before the treatment is decided upon, it is necessary to perform several tests. The Pap smear is usually done in order to detect potential cellular changes of the cervix. Ultrasound is used to determine the exact dimensions and thickness of the endometrium, as well as potential infections.
Sometimes it is necessary to perform a biopsy of the uterine lining in order to inspect the sample for cancer cells. Similarly, curettage uses a device called curette to collect a sample that is then sent to a lab for testing.
Finally, hysteroscopy is a procedure that uses an instrument similar to a telescope, which allows a closer look at the uterus.
There are two treatment options for thickening of the uterus lining- medications and surgery. Medications consist of the hormone progesterone, which causes the lining to shed and prevents abnormal thickening in the future.
Surgery is usually the option only if cancer is diagnosed, because it involves hysterectomy, which is the complete removal of the uterus.
Endometrial hyperplasia or thickening of the uterus as such is not cancerous, but women diagnosed with it are considered to be at a higher risk of getting cancer, which is why they require frequent check-ups at the gynecologist. If diagnosed and treated on time, these abnormalities do not prevent a perfectly normal and healthy life.