The Truth About Those Pesky Fibroids

Woman experiencing period pains
What are fibroids?

Fibroids are abnormal growths that develop in or on a woman’s uterus. Sometimes these tumors become quite large and cause severe abdominal pain and heavy periods. In other cases, they cause no signs or symptoms at all. The growths are typically benign, or noncancerous. The cause of fibroids is unknown.

 

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Fibroids are also known by the following names:

  • leiomyomas
  • myomas
  • uterine myomas
  • fibromas

 

About 80% of women have them by the age of 50. However, some symptoms can be silent and some women do not even know they have fibroids.

 

What are the different types of fibroids?

 

The type of fibroid a woman develops depends on its location in or on the uterus

Intramural fibroids

Intramural fibroids are the most common type of fibroid. These types appear within the muscular wall of the uterus. Intramural fibroids may grow larger and can stretch your womb.

Subserosal fibroids

Subserosal fibroids form on the outside of your uterus, which is called the serosa. They may grow large enough to make your womb appear bigger on one side.

Pedunculated fibroids

Subserosal tumors can develop a stem, a slender base that supports the tumor. When they do, they’re known as pedunculated fibroids.

Submucosal fibroids

These types of tumors develop in the middle muscle layer, or myometrium, of your uterus. Submucosal tumors aren’t as common as the other types.

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What causes fibroids?

It’s unclear why fibroids develop, but several factors may influence their formation.

Hormones

Estrogen and Progesterone are the hormones produced by the ovaries. They cause the uterine lining to regenerate during each menstrual cycle and may stimulate the growth of fibroids.

Family history

Fibroids may run in the family. If your mother, sister, or grandmother has a history of this condition, you may develop it as well.

Pregnancy

Being pregnant increases the production of estrogen and progesterone in your body. Fibroids may develop and grow rapidly while you are pregnant.

Who is at risk for fibroids?

Women are at greater risk for developing fibroids if they have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • pregnancy
  • a family history of fibroids
  • age of 30 or older
  • African-American
  • being overwight
What are the symptoms of fibroids?

Your symptoms will depend on the number of tumors you have as well as their location and size. For instance, submucosal fibroids may cause heavy menstrual bleeding and problems conceiving.

Symptoms of fibroids may include:

  • heavy bleeding including blood clots
  • pain in the pelvis or lower back
  • increased menstrual cramping
  • menstruation that lasts longer than usual
  • pressure in lower abdomen
How are fibroids diagnosed?

For a proper diagnosis, you’ll need to see a gynecologist to get a pelvic exam This exam is used to check the condition, size, and shape of your uterus. You may also need other tests, which include: Ultrasound and Pelvic MRI

How are fibroids treated?

Your doctor will develop a treatment plan based on your age, the size of your fibroids, and your overall health. You may receive a combination of treatments.

Medications

Medications are given to regulate your hormone levels may be prescribed to shrink fibroids.

Other options that can help control bleeding and pain, but won’t shrink or eliminate fibroids, include:

  • an IUD that releases the hormone progestin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Birth control pills

Surgery

Surgery to remove very large or multiple growths may be performed. This is known as a myomectomy. An abdominal myomectomy involves making a large incision in the abdomen to access the uterus and remove the fibroids. The surgery can also be performed  laparocopically using a few small incisions into which surgical tools and a camera are inserted. Fibroids might grow back after surgery.

If your condition worsens, or if no other treatments work, your physician may perform a hysterectomy. However, this means that you won’t be able to bear children in the future.

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