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Uterine Fibroids: Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

uterine fibroids

Have you been through heavy bleeding in between your periods or have periods that are prolonged and extremely pain? Have you experienced an uncontrollable urge to urinate and that too very frequently during the day? If yes, then it’s time to book an appointment to your gynecologist as you these symptoms could indicate possible uterine fibroid. You should not neglect these symptoms for a long as these growths on the uterus might lead to various health complications including the risk of cancer. Read further to gain a clear insight about its symptoms, causes, and treatment.

What Are Uterine Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are one of the most common types of benign tumor found in the uterus. They are abnormal growths that develop around or in the uterus. These are formed from the smooth muscular structure either inside the wall of the uterus or are attached to the sides of the uterus[1]. In most cases, these fibroids do not show any symptoms and hence, many women may not even know they have fibroids.

Fibroids are usually classified based on its location in the uterus. These are:

Intramural fibroids are the most common ones in which the growth occurs within the muscular wall of the uterus. This type of fibroid can grow large in size and may even stretch the womb.

Subserosal fibroids is a condition in which the growth occurs outside the uterus and hence, the name serosa. These can grow big in size and make your womb look big.

Pedunculated fibroids are when the fibroids are attached to the uterine wall with a slender base called a peduncle. These fibroids can grow both inside and outside the uterus and may also increase your risk of cancer.

Submucosal fibroids are the ones that develop inside the uterus, mostly in the middle layer or myometrium. Moreover, these are not as common as the other types of fibroids.

What Are The Risk Factors Of Uterine Fibroids?

These growths are usually benign or noncancerous and the exact cause of uterine fibroids is not known. According to a 2017 study[2], uterine fibroids or growths are observed in more than 40% of the women after the age of 50. And this is why it is considered to be one of the leading reasons for the removal of the uterus. Here are some of the key risk factors of uterine fibroids:

Hormones: The hormones produced by the ovaries namely estrogen and progesterone may influence the formation of the fibroids. They can lead to the regeneration of uterine lining during menstruation and may stimulate the formation of fibroids.

Obesity: Women who are severely overweight or have a body fat percentage greater than 30% were also at a higher risk of fibroids[3]. This is because the growth of fibroids is triggered by the hormone estrogen which can be secreted in excess in women with excess abdominal fat. Hence, the more you weigh, the higher is the risk of fibroids.

Family history: If any female in your family like your mother, grandmother or sister has a history of fibroids, then you may carry a higher risk of uterine fibroids.

Pregnancy: Yes, the risk if higher during pregnancy as the production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone is increased at this stage, which can boost the growth of uterine fibroids[4].

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What Are The Symptoms Of Uterine Fibroids?

Fibroids, sometimes, cause no symptoms and hence, it is difficult for you to detect if you suffer from the condition or not. However, there is a chain of symptoms that you need to observe and identify over a period of time to detect uterine fibroids. These set of symptoms are:

-Severe and heavy menstrual bleeding, also known as menorrhagia

-Fullness of lower abdomen due to excessive pressure on the bladder

-Urgency to urinate

-Urinating several times during the day

-Increased menstrual pain or cramps

-Swollen or enlarged abdomen

-Menstruation which lasts longer than usual

-Lower abdominal pain or in the pelvis,

-Pain during intercourse[5].  

How Is Uterine Fibroid Diagnosed And Treated?

The diagnosis begins with getting a pelvic examination. Your gynecologist can also prescribe you to go through an ultrasound test or a pelvic MRI to get better imaging of the growth of the uterine fibroid.

The treatment plan may be developed based on the severity of the fibroids, your age, size of the fibroids and overall health. Dietary changes are recommended during the treatment phase which includes no meat and restriction of foods with high calories. You may have to include foods like green vegetables and green tea that have high flavonoids[6]. Additionally, you may have to control stress and keep your weight in check.

Medications might be prescribed to shrink the size of the fibroids which include the use of hormones to regulate the hormonal balance in the body. In the case of large or multiple growths, surgery to remove the fibroids might be recommended. This is known as myomectomy i.e. removal of growth or fibroids. In severe growth conditions when the fibroids are too many and scattered or are very big in size, your gynecologist may have to conduct a hysterectomy i.e; removal of the uterus itself along with fibroids, which will not let you conceive in the future[7]. Hence, if you are planning to conceive but are diagnosed with fibroids, then do talk to your doctor to know how you can go about it and monitor your condition.

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(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)

Recommended Reads:

Common Causes Of Pelvic Pain In Women

UTI Infection In Women: 8 Common Questions Answered!

References:

1. Publishing, H. (2018). What you should know about fibroids – Harvard Health. [online] Harvard Health. [Accessed 19 Sep. 2018].

2. Mas A, Tarazona M, Dasí Carrasco J, Estaca G, Cristóbal I, Monleón J. Updated approaches for the management of uterine fibroids. International Journal of Women’s Health. 2017;Volume 9:607-617.

3. Yang Y, He Y, Zeng Q, Li S. Association of body size and body fat distribution with uterine fibroids among Chinese women. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2014 Jul;23(7):619-26.

4. Lee H, Norwitz E, Shaw J. Contemporary Management of Fibroids in Pregnancy. REVIEWS IN OBSTETRICS & GYNECOLOGY [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2 January 2019];3(1):20-27. 

5. Donnez J, Dolmans M. Uterine fibroid management: from the present to the future. Human Reproduction Update. 2016;22(6):665-686.

6. De La Cruz M, Buchanan E. Uterine Fibroids: Diagnosis and Treatment. American Family Physician [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2 January 2019];95(2):100-107.

7. Publishing, H. (2018). Fibroids – Harvard Health. [online] Harvard Health.  [Accessed 19 Sep. 2018].

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