If you are a woman, there is a good chance you will have uterine fibroids or leiomyomas at some point. Fibroids are common noncancerous tumors that grow in and around the uterus, often during childbearing years. Because fibroids often do not cause symptoms, you might know you have them until Dr. Andrew Doe discovers them during a pelvic exam. Read to learn more about uterine fibroids.
Fibroids vary in shape, size, and location
Uterine fibroids can be so tiny, like a seedling, or large enough to alter your uterine shape. However, most noncancerous growths are a few centimeters to a few inches in diameter. These tumors can grow within the uterus (intramural fibroids) or on the outer wall of the uterus (serosa). The latter can develop a stem-like structure that supports the larger tumor (pedunculated fibroids). Submucosal fibroids tend to protrude into the uterine cavity and can cause infertility or pregnancy loss.
Many women with fibroids have no symptoms
Only about one in five women with fibroids experience symptoms; many are surprised when these uterine growths are discovered during a pelvic exam. Depending on the tumor’s location, healthcare providers sometimes feel a fibroid during a pelvic exam. Women with symptoms may experience intense cramping, excessive bleeding, constipation, pressure in the pelvic region, urinary tract problems, and back or leg pain.
The cause of fibroids is not known
There is no known cause for these noncancerous growths, but according to clinical experience, some factors may play a role. For example, genes play a role; many fibroids have a different genetic profile than typical uterine muscle cells. They also contain more estrogen and progesterone, hormones that cause the uterine lining to thicken each menstrual cycle in preparation for pregnancy. As such, these tumors tend to shrink after menopause as hormone production declines.
Some women are more predisposed to develop fibroids than others
Other than being a woman of reproductive age, other factors impact fibroid development. For example, black women are more likely to have fibroids than women of other races. Additionally, in black women, the fibroids tend to grow at younger ages and are likely to be larger and cause severe symptoms. Women with a family history of fibroids also have an increased risk of developing them. Other risk factors associated with these uterine tumors include obesity, vitamin D deficiency, starting your periods early, drinking alcohol, and having a diet low in greens and high in red meat.
There are various treatments for uterine fibroids
Initially, hysterectomies were common for treating uterine fibroids. Thanks to advancements in medical technology, there are less drastic measures to treat uterine fibroids. For example, your doctor may prescribe medicines to control excessive bleeding caused by fibroids. Medications that manipulate your hormones can shrink the size of your fibroids but won’t eliminate them.
Your doctor may also recommend uterine artery embolization – a minimally invasive procedure that involves injecting small particles into the arteries supplying the fibroids. Consequently, the fibroids shrink and die due to insufficient blood supply.
If you have any questions about uterine fibroids, consult your healthcare provider at Alate Health.