What Are Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) tumors that grow on or within the muscle tissue of the uterus.
Common Fibroid Symptoms
There are several different types of symptoms that women can experience if they have fibroid tumors.
Excessive Menstrual Bleeding
Excessive menstrual bleeding is one of the most common symptoms of uterine fibroids. It is also the most prevalent symptom for two out of the four types of uterine fibroids: intramural and submucosal. When experiencing uterine fibroid symptoms, like heavy menstrual bleeding or abnormal uterine bleeding, there are other symptoms that directly result from it.
Passing clots is very common with excessive menstrual bleeding as well as prolonged cycles of bleeding and longer monthly periods. It can also cause frequent soiling, something that can interfere with everyday activities and lifestyle. Abnormal uterine bleeding that is prolonged can have serious side effects over time. Untreated, it can lead to fatigue and anemia, which is the result of a low red blood cell count. These factors can eventually lead to the need for blood transfusions.
Pelvic Pain and Pressure
As fibroids grow they can put additional pressure on surrounding organs, which can be extremely painful. The growth of fibroids can cause consistent lower abdominal pain as well as swelling, which is sometimes mistaken for weight gain or pregnancy. If you are experiencing pelvic pain and pressure or any other type of uterine fibroid symptom, a full gynecological exam should be done immediately to determine the cause.
Pelvic pain and pressure can be caused not only by the size of a uterine fibroid tumor but also the location. Additional conditions can accompany uterine fibroids, such as adenomyosis.
Adenomyosis occurs when the tissue that lines the uterus (endometrium) grows within the middle layer of the uterine wall and supportive vascular tissue (myometrium). Typically, the uterine lining prevents adhesions (bands of scar-like tissue) from occurring. However, when uterine fibroids develop and begin to grow, the possibility for adhesions also grows, something that can cause a great deal of pain.
Urinary Incontinence and Frequency (Loss of Bladder Control)
One of the organs commonly affected during the growth of the fibroid tumors is the bladder. As added pressure is applied to this organ, the risk of urinary incontinence, or the loss of bladder control, as well as frequent urination increases. Not only can this cause a great deal of pain and discomfort, but it can also become a hindrance in your everyday activities.
Another possible effect of uterine fibroid growth can be increased pressure to the bowel. This can cause uncomfortable constipation and/or bloating. If you feel you are experiencing these potential fibroid symptoms on a regular basis, consult with a medical professional in order to rule out or diagnose any potential serious medical conditions.
- Pain in the back of the legs
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- An enlarged abdomen
Depending on the size and location of fibroids, symptoms can become so severe that they affect the ability to maintain daily activities. However, many women live with fibroids and still maintain a good quality of life with the ability to manage and perform their everyday tasks. In some cases, women may experience no symptoms at all.
If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of uterine fibroids and are finding it difficult to perform your daily activities and maintain your way of life, you should contact your local interventional radiologist immediately.
Types of Fibroids
There are different types of fibroids and the size can range from very small (walnut size) to as large as a cantaloupe or even larger. It is common for a woman to have multiple fibroid tumors and it may be difficult to understand which fibroid is causing your symptoms.
Who Is at Risk for Fibroids?
Approximately 20-40% of women 35 years and older have fibroid tumors. Fibroids are more common among women of African-American descent. Some statistics indicate that up to 80% of African-American women will develop uterine fibroids. Find out if you are at risk for uterine fibroids.
If you have fibroids, you have options. While some women do not experience any of the symptoms of fibroids, the location and size of fibroid tumors can cause symptoms that can affect a woman’s quality of life. Take a look at the treatment options available.
Fibroids are hormonally sensitive, so symptoms are likely to be cyclical, like menstruation. As estrogen levels tend to increase prior to the onset of menopause, this may cause the size of many uterine fibroids to increase along with the symptoms. During menopause the levels of estrogen decrease dramatically, causing fibroids to shrink. However, women taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) during menopause may not experience any symptom relief because the estrogen contained in this regime may cause fibroid tumors to enlarge and symptoms to return.
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