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In most cases, thickening of the womb, or endometrial hyperplasia, is a response to increased estrogen levels. In women of childbearing age who menstruate regularly, it is necessary for the uterine lining to thicken so it can shed during menstruation, and it is a sign of a healthy womb. On the other hand, a thickened womb may indicate a health concern for some women. Common symptoms can include heavy or long periods, bleeding between each period, and pain in the lower abdomen. Conditions that cause this range from obesity and menopause to diabetes and cancer, so it is important for a woman who suspects she may have this symptom to get the problem diagnosed and treated quickly.
Women who are of childbearing age are expected to experience a thickening of the lining of the womb about once a month. This needs to happen before she can menstruate, because the discharge is made up of tissue and blood from the uterine lining. This also is crucial to getting pregnant, because a thick womb lining makes it possible for the embryo to attach securely to the uterus. The lining regularly becomes thicker in women who menstruate, so it can be difficult to tell whether there is a problem. After all, the symptoms of bleeding between periods, abdominal cramps, and prolonged bleeding are all commonly noticed by women with healthy wombs, which is why regular gynecological exams are important.
It is sometimes easier to detect an abnormal thickening of the womb in women who no longer get menstrual periods, because they are more likely to notice the unexplained bleeding and cramps that tend to come with this condition. As women age, their estrogen levels tend to decrease, which is why the womb lining is not supposed to get thick anymore. As a result, if the lining does get thick, it often means some condition is causing excess estrogen to be present. The cause may be something the woman already knows about, such as hormone replacement treatments (HRT), obesity, or the simple hormonal imbalance that tends to come with the early stages of menopause. The most serious cause, however, is uterine cancer, and this is rarely known about without a proper exam.
Most women should have regular Pap smears, during which cells are scraped from the cervix so they can be checked for abnormalities, such as cancer. If a healthcare professional wishes to get a closer look at the uterine lining, he may perform an ultrasound. If the results are unclear or seem to indicate a serious issue, then a biopsy may be next; this involves cutting a tissue sample from the uterine lining to analyze the cells. The sooner such testing is completed, the earlier the cause of the thickening of the womb can be found, allowing for treatment as soon as possible.