A lot of women who suffer from Endometriosis also have adhesions. You may have heard the term “adhesions” but just don’t know exactly what they are, or what they do. Well, I’m here to help!
After my first excision surgery in June of last year, I was told that I had adhesions which needed to be cut and/or removed. What the heck? My doctor described it as scarring which acted like spider webs, stretching from organ to organ, entangling my organs, or even stitching two organs together. These restrictions are known to cause intense pain if the organ’s movements or function are limited in any way. They may also cause infertility if the Fallopian tubes are blocked due to the woven-web of adhesions, preventing the egg from traveling to their wonderful, spongey, wet, warm home.
My bladder and my uterus were stuck together by adhesions. As were my bowel and uterus. Those are the two most memorable “knit togethers” that I can recall from my surgery. But there were numerous others he removed. Since my surgery, the “normal” pain I had associated with going to the bathroom is GONE! I believe my adhesions caused my bladder and bowel to be pulled funky, which caused pain every time I had…to go.
Okay, enough with the personal TMI, on with the explanations & research!
What are Adhesions?
Adhesions are the body’s “repair cells” trying to fix internal damage, but causing more of a mess. These “repair cells” may form on the surface of an organ, but come into contact with another, forming a band or bands of scar tissue that grow within the body, adhering two or more organs together. Think of spider webs, or better yet : a strand of sticky taffy! (Mmmm, taffy…) They vary in appearance, resembling thin plastic bands or even thick fibrous bands of tissue. A wonderful image of what some adhesions look like can be found here (be warned, you’re looking at a woman’s insides!…no, not mine)
They can also obstruct organs, such as the bowel, ovaries, or Fallopian tubes, from functioning properly. They can be found anywhere within the body, but frequent the abdomen, heart, spine, and hands. Adhesions have been known to form in joints and eyes as well, and can continue to tighten or grow over time, causing further obstructions, restrictions, and pain (by pulling organs where they shouldn’t go, or by even pulling on nerve endings). Adhesions above the liver may even cause pain when deep breathing.
What Causes Adhesions?
Adhesions form from inflammation (i.e., Endometriosis!) or after the body sustains injury (i.e, damage caused by chemotherapy, radiation, cancer, infections, surgery, or other bodily harm). A 2017 study stated that Endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease are the most common causes of non-surgical adhesions in women. Other causes in either males or females can include Crohn’s Disesae, diverticular disease, and abdominal tuberculosis. That same 2017 study also states 90% adhesions of adhesions develop after abdominal surgery. Adhesions are also commonly formed following surgical procedures near the incision site, but it has been shown that laparoscopic and/or robotic laparoscopic surgeries are less likely to have adhesions growth due to surgeries. Any internal trauma or damage to the body may cause an adhesion to begin to grow.
How Do You Diagnose Adhesions?
Common symptoms of adhesions may be constant bloating, abdominal cramping, constipation or diarrhea, a bowel obstruction, nausea, infertility, painful sex, or painful pooping.
Unfortunately, no tests or x-rays diagnose adhesions. However, ultrasound, CT, or contrasted imaging studies may show obstructions or displacement caused by adhesions. Surgery appears to be the only true way to diagnosis the presence of adhesions.
How Can We Remove Adhesions?
So far, surgery to remove or disconnect the adhesions appears to be the only “removal” option. Your surgeon may also choose to coat the adhesion site with a barrier medication, with the hopes to discourage any new or future adhesion growth in that particular location. Unfortunately, adhesions almost always reform. Since many may not cause pain or risky obstructions, most adhesions are left alone and not operated on. The risk of regrowth many influence the decision to surgically destroy adhesions.
Any Non-Surgical Intervention for Adhesions?
It appears that surgery is the only option if adhesions are causing pain or blockages/restrictions. But that doesn’t mean we can’t pamper our adhesions. I know of many EndoSisters who do routine stretches and yoga to help keep their adhesions “limber,” so to speak. Maintaining a healthy fiber intake may help with constipation. Muscle relaxers may be beneficial if you suffer from adhesion-related abdominal cramping. Every person is different, as are their adhesions. Only you know your body, and only you know how you can or cannot stretch. Tread lightly…
How Can We Prevent Adhesions?
I’m not really sure. Adhesions may form due to our illness, arthritis, surgery, or a plethora of other reasons. Many women swear by Serrapeptese or Wobenzyme (a supplement) to prevent and/or maintain adhesions growth. If you choose to try these supplements, please do your research and have an extensive conversation with your physician.
**Updated February 16, 2017**
Annals of Medicine & Surgery (2017; Article) Abdominal Adhesions: A Practical Review of an Often Overlooked Entity
~ Again, I am a layman. I do not hold any college degrees, nor mastery of knowledge. Please take what I say with a grain of salt. If curious, do your own research 😉 Validate my writings. Or challenge them. And ALWAYS feel free to consult with your physician. Always. Yours ~ Lisa