What Are Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors that grow inside the muscle tissue of the uterus. When fibroids increase in size and number, they can cause problems for women, such as heavy bleeding and pelvic pain.
Types of Fibroids
Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that affect nearly 30% of women ages 30-45.
They are also medically referenced as myoma, leiolyoma, or fibromyoma. The four major forms include: subserosal, intramural, submucosal, and pedunculated. Each kind is classified by location in the uterus and involves different symptoms and treatment options.
Due to the varied nature, women may have one or a combination of fibroids. Targeting the source may be challenging if multiple tumors are present.
- Develops underneath the outer uterine layer, known as the serosa
- Generally produces small bumps on the outside wall of the uterus and induces pelvic pain as they expand
- Most common type
- Begins in the muscular wall of the uterus and can grow into other regions
- Patients may confuse symptoms with pregnancy or weight gain as the tumor makes the uterus bloat
- If left untreated, the fibroid may cause discomfort, frequent urination, or heavy menstrual bleeding
- Originates below the inner lining of the uterus
- Typically impacts blood vessels and results in pelvic pain and abnormal bleeding
- If a submucosal fibroid grows large enough in size, it can block the fallopian tubes and lead to fertility complications
- Without treatment, they can also cause prolonged menstrual periods, anemia, and chronic fatigue
- Usually occurs on the outside of the uterus and grows from a stalk
- Creates pelvic pain, pressure, and cramping if it grows into the uterus and begins to twist
The majority of women with uterine fibroids experience mild to no symptoms.
Fibroids can develop quickly over months or take years to mature. Fibroid disease involves a range of symptoms, such as heavy bleeding, anemia, bloating, or loss of bladder control.
Excessive Menstrual Bleeding
Having embarrassing accidents during a menstrual cycle is the most common complaint of our patients. This is because one of the most typical signs of uterine fibroids, especially intramural and submucosal, is heavy menstrual bleeding.
What Is Excessive Menstrual Bleeding?
- A period that lasts longer than 7 days
- Having to wear both pads and tampons
- Changing pads/tampons within 2 hours
If fibroids go untreated, prolonged periods of excessive bleeding may even result in other serious health conditions, including:
Pelvic Pain & Pressure
Fibroids can significantly enlarge the uterus, sometimes increasing it to the size of a 5-month pregnancy! The larger a fibroid becomes, the more pain and pressure it places on the uterus. Surrounding organs can also be compressed and can lead to discomfort and swelling of the abdomen due to increased uterus size.
The uterus sits on top of the bladder. When the uterus becomes enlarged it puts pressure on the bladder, similar to the pressure you may experience during pregnancy. This pressure can lead to urinary leakage or accidents, which can be quite a nuisance and difficult to deal with. Treatment of the fibroids will relieve the pressure on the bladder and improve urinary incontinence issues.
Similar to the bladder, the surrounding colon and intestines can become compressed when the uterus is enlarged by fibroids. When the stomach and intestines are compressed, this can lead to early fullness and bloating. When the colon is compressed, this can cause constipation. Both constipation and bloating can cause pain and discomfort.
While many women with uterine fibroids are asymptomatic, others experience serious complications. Additional symptoms may involve:
- Leg pain
- Painful intercourse
- Abdominal swelling
Though the cause of uterine fibroids is unclear, a combination of factors contributes to their occurrence.
Genetics, weight, ethnicity, hormones, and age are proven to increase the risks and severity of symptoms. It is still unknown why some women with fibroids experience severe symptoms while others do not.
The following factors contribute to a woman’s risk of developing fibroids:
Uterine fibroids are generally found in women ages 35-50. They rarely occur during the early 20s and either stabilize or shrink during menopause.
Estrogen and progesterone are associated with fibroids. They typically appear in women during childbearing years when hormone production levels are high.
Your chances of developing uterine fibroids increase if your mother or other family members have had them.
Women who are overweight have a greater chance of developing fibroids. A diet with too much red meat and not enough fruits and vegetables is thought to be a contributing factor.
Environmental habits may also impact the occurrence of fibroids. This includes alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, and toxins that affect the uterus.
African-American women are diagnosed more often with fibroids. They also appear earlier and grow larger than those found among other ethnicities.
Fewer incidents of fibroids are found in women who have given birth. Pregnancy may also protect against them due to uterine changes after childbirth.
An MRI is the best test to assess the size, location, and number of fibroids. This information helps determine what treatment options are best for you. Fibroids are highly treatable and do not always require removal to alleviate symptoms.
At Alate Health, we offer you the chance to experience relief from fibroids without surgery. Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a minimally-invasive procedure that safely and effectively shrinks fibroids and alleviates their symptoms. To learn more, please visit our Uterine Fibroid Embolization page.