Nearly three out of four women will have uterine fibroids at some point, according to the Mayo Clinic. The symptoms and appearance of fibroids can vary widely from one woman to the next. Uterine fibroids are cell growths that can shrink, grow larger or stay the same size over time. These masses may cause extreme pain, or they might not cause symptoms at all. Fibroids can appear minuscule or they can grow large enough to expand your uterus to your ribcage. The severity of symptoms will usually determine whether or not treatment is required.
Uterine fibroids can also be called fibromyomas, leiomyomas or myomas. While fibroids form due to abnormal cell growth, they are almost always noncancerous. Usually, an anomalous cell in the uterus will reproduce, and eventually enough cells will combine to form a firm, rubbery mass. These masses can develop within the uterus cavity or on its outside tissue lining. Uterine fibroids tend to affect women during their childbearing years, but the fibroids rarely prevent pregnancy. In fact, most women will experience no symptoms of uterine fibroids.
The minority of women with uterine fibroids will experience symptoms such as a particularly heavy flow or a prolonged menstrual period, usually considered seven days or more of bleeding. Fibroids may also cause pain in your pelvis. If the masses are pressing down on your bladder, they can cause frequent or difficult urination. Fibroids placing pressure on your rectum may result in constipation or backache. The location of the fibroids typically determines which symptoms appear. Submucosal fibroids grow inside the uterus, and they likely account for heavy and prolonged menstrual periods. These fibroids could affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant. Subserosal fibroids occur outside the uterus, and they usually press on your bladder or rectum, causing problems with urination or bowel movements. These fibroids may likewise compress a spinal nerve, resulting in back aches and pain.
Doctors have yet to determine a definitive cause for fibroids, but genetic mutations may account for the cell abnormalities that cause fibroids. A problem with the hormones estrogen and progesterone may also play a role. Other chemical substances in the body may also factor into fibroid formation.
Most uterine fibroids are negligible enough to bypass treatment. However, for fibroids that cause extreme pain or discomfort, a wide variety of treatment options are available. Medications control menstrual bleeding and possibly shrink fibroids. These drugs usually treat symptoms by managing your hormone levels. While medication might make fibroids smaller, only surgery can effectively remove fibroids from your body. A surgical procedure called a myomectomy removes fibroids but does not prevent them from returning. A hysterectomy can result in permanent fibroid removal, but this procedure involves removing your uterus completely. This surgery is a major decision, as women who have a hysterectomy can no longer bear children. Focused ultrasound surgery is one of the least invasive surgical options. With the use of high-energy sound waves directed at your uterus, surgeons can find and destroy the fibroids, which affect each woman differently. A health care professional can help you find the right path to manage and treat your symptoms effectively.