Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that grow on the walls of the womb. Women with fibroids can have symptoms ranging from pelvic discomfort to heavy bleeding and pelvic pain to low back pain and so on. But in some cases, the condition can be displayed no symptoms at all.
Since fibroids affect 70 to 80% of women before age 50, it is vital to be armed with the right kind of information about the condition, so you are aware of what to do when you or your loved one is affected.
Some factors increase a woman’s risk of developing fibroids, including:
- Family history: you have a higher chance of developing fibroids if one or more of your family members had fibroids. Studies show that genetics make you three times more susceptible to the condition than an average person.
- Age: fibroids become prevalent with age. You are especially vulnerable in your 30s and 40s through to menopause, but the chances go down after menopause.
- Obesity: you are at high risk (two to three times greater) of developing fibroids if you’re overweight or obese.
- Diet: Studies have shown a connection between eating lots of ham and red meat and a higher risk of fibroids. Vegetables, on the other hand, have a counter effect.
- Ethnic origin: African-American women have higher chances of getting fibroids than white women.
Where they grow
As mentioned earlier, fibroids grow in the womb’s wall. However, their locations may vary as you’ll notice below:
Subserosal – when they grow outside of the womb
Intramural – when they grow within the womb’s wall
Submucosal – when they grow into the uterine cavity
Pedunculated – when they develop on stalks that grow into the womb’s cavity or its surface
Identifying the pain
Fibroids can cause severe pain in some women. Other than the prolonged periods and menstrual bleeding, they can cause:
- Lower back pain
- Dull, chronic pelvic pain and pressure
- Pain with sex or periods
- Abdominal bloating and swelling
- Desire to urinate frequently
Note that the uterine fibroids pain can be infrequent or happen during menstruation or sex. It can also be a dull or sharp ache. But the intensity of the pain will differ based on the size, location, and number of fibroids in your womb.
Pain during sex
Fibroids may cause pain in two different ways during sex: when the growth in or near the cervix rubs with the penis or there’s pressure on either side of the womb. The former can also lead to bleeding during sexual intercourse.
Lower back pain
Lower back pain is another potential issue arising from subserosal fibroids – usually due to its location against the spine. If the fibroids are large enough, they may cause enough pressure to form spinal or muscular pain. In this case, you may need to undergo a surgical procedure or use medication to shrink the growth.
Your gynecologist may feel irregularities in the shape of your uterus, pointing to the possibility of fibroids. If you present the above symptoms, he or she may order an ultrasound, and/or lab test. Other imaging tests that may be used include Hysterosonography, Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Hysterosalpingography, and Hysteroscopy.
Treating uterine fibroids
There are many different treatment options available. You doctor may recommend:
If you experience mild to no symptoms that you can live with, then this could be an ideal option. Since this growth isn’t cancerous, it doesn’t interfere with pregnancy and tend to reduce in size after menopause, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Your doctor may also prescribe some medicines to treat pelvic pressure and heavy bleeding symptoms. Usually, these medications won’t clear the fibroids but may shrink them. Examples include Progestin-releasing intrauterine device (IUD), Tranexamic acid (Lysteda, Cyklokapron), and Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists.
MRI-guided focused ultrasound surgery
This is a non-invasive procedure that needs no incision, preserves the uterus, and is done on an outpatient basis. The doctor determines the location of the fibroid and focuses sound waves into the growth to heat and destroy small parts of the tissue.
Some procedures like myolysis, uterine artery embolization, laparoscopic, endometrial ablation, and hysteroscopic myomectomy can destroy fibroids without eliminating them through surgery.
Traditional surgical procedures
Hysterectomy and abdominal myomectomy are also effective in the removal of uterine fibroids