30% of Women Have Uterine Fibroids: What it is and the Symptoms

Uterine fibroids are a common health problem among women. Depending on the size and location of the tumor, these tumors can be asymptomatic or cause severe symptoms. Uterine fibroids are estimated to affect up to 30% of women at some point in their lives. If you are one of these women, you must understand the symptoms and treatment options.

What are Uterine Fibroids?

Fibroids are fibrous tumors that grow along the uterine walls and are usually non-cancerous. Fibroids can be as small as a pea or as large as a female pregnant uterus. They grow slowly and typically do not have any negative symptoms other than abdominal pain or pressure. However, depending on the type of fibroid you have, they may pose a threat to your life if not properly treated.

Causes of Uterine Fibroids

While the exact cause of fibroids is unknown, a few risk factors may increase your chances of developing them. Some potential causes include genetics, hormones, lifestyle choices, and infections.

If you have a family history of uterine fibroids, you’re more likely to develop them yourself. Women who smoke or drink too much alcohol are also at a higher risk than those overweight or obese. Furthermore, certain infections, such as STDs, can increase the risk of uterine fibroid formation.

Symptoms

Uterine fibroids cause few symptoms, though they can be painful at times. If a person gets diagnosed with this condition, she should consider her treatment options because no medication specifically treats uterine fibroids.

The most common symptom is a heavy menstrual cycle, defined as periods lasting more than a week and accompanied by painful cramps. Pelvic pressure and pain during intercourse are also common symptoms. Uterine fibroids can cause aches in the lower abdomen or back, constipation, frequent urination, and infertility problems in women.

Diagnosis

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, you should see a doctor. Your doctor will inquire about your medical history, as well as details about your menstrual cycle and family. They may then perform a pelvic exam manually or use X-ray imaging or ultrasonography, which uses sound waves to create monitor images. If the fibroids are not cancerous, they should look like round tumors with smooth edges.

Treatment

Treatment options for uterine fibroids vary depending on the patient’s age, the type of fibroid, the symptoms she experiences, and her overall health—for example, whether she is pregnant or breastfeeding.

1. Surgery and Non-Invasive Procedures

There are several surgical procedures available, depending on the size and location of the fibroids. Some common surgeries include:

Uterine Fibroid Embolization

According to Vascular Interventional Physicians, which specializes in uterine fibroid treatment in Memphis TN, “Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a new, minimally invasive procedure that helps shrink uterine fibroids without surgery.”

In this procedure, they insert a catheter into your femoral artery in your thigh until it reaches your uterine artery and injects a substance to help stop the flow of blood to your uterus.

The goal is to reduce the size of the fibroids and prevent them from growing any larger. It’s a good option for women who don’t want or can’t have surgery or are pregnant or breastfeeding and thus unable to have surgery. UFE is highly effective in treating symptoms such as heavy menstrual cycles, pelvic pressure, and pain during intercourse.

Myomectomy

This is surgery to remove the fibroids from the uterus. It is usually recommended for women who want to preserve their fertility.

Hysterectomy

This is surgery to remove the entire uterus. It is frequently recommended for women who have children or do not wish to have any more.

Endometrial Ablation

This is another method of removing the excess tissue from the uterine cavity or womb that does not require surgery. The uterine lining—the endometrium—is destroyed during ablation using heat, cold, microwaves, or other methods.

2. Medication

If you have uterine fibroids that are not causing symptoms and your doctor intends to monitor them over time, you may get treated with medication. The doctor may advise surgery if they grow, become painful, or cause other issues. Among the medications used to treat uterine fibroids are:

  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone Agonists– These drugs inhibit the body’s estrogen production, causing tumors to shrink.
  • Progestin – These hormones reduce heavy menstrual bleeding by shrinking uterine tissue. It also reduces iron loss with menstruation, leading to less anemia (tiredness).
  • Aromatase Inhibitors – These drugs inhibit estrogen production in the ovaries, causing tumors to shrink over time. Uterine fibroids are usually removed or reduced in size through surgery or medication. If your doctor intends to monitor them rather than treat them at this time, they will most likely repeat their physical exam every 6-12 months to check on their growth.

Bottom Line

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that develop in the uterus. Though these tumors can be painful and interfere with normal activities, they are not life-threatening. Medications or procedures such as UFE may help shrink uterine fibroids so that they do not cause pain in women who have them.

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