Uterine Fibroids: What is it, Symptoms and Treatment
Did you know that tumors can grow in and of your uterus? They are called fibroids. They are known as myomas, fibromas, uterine myomas and leiomyomas. Get to know more about uterine fibroids, their symptoms and treatment options.
What are uterine fibroids?
Uterine fibroids abnormally grow into a woman’s uterus. They are known as myomas, fibromas, uterine myomas and leiomyomas. Fibroids are tumors that are the reasons why you have severe menstrual cramps or unusual period flow.
However, there are some lucky women who have uterine fibroids don’t suffer from any symptoms at all. They are not aware that they have uterine fibroids and are living normal lives free from fibroids symptoms and discomfort.
While they are indeed tumors, the good news is that they are not cancerous. They are benign tumors that grow in different sizes.
There is no known cause for having uterine fibroids. It is not clinically proven that it’s the food that you eat or the environment that you are in. Women of childbearing age are prone to risks of uterine fibroids.
However, according to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, as women age, they are most likely to have uterine fibroids. While age might be a factor and may increase your risk of having this disorder, there are some studies that show that there is a high possibility that genetics is one of the causes of having uterine fibroids.
What are the types of uterine fibroids?
- Subserosal fibroids - Those that are formed outside your uterus. They’re the reasons why most women with fibroids have bulging abdomens. Subserosal fibroids are treated through a surgical procedure called hysteroscopic myomectomy.
- Intramural fibroids -This type of fibroids grows within your uterus and they are the most common. They grow in different sizes. Some common symptoms of intramural fibroids are pelvic pain, heavy flow and lower back pain. Intramural fibroids are diagnosed through an abdominal examination. There are also other medical procedures to help you diagnose these fibroids such as X-ray, biopsy, transvaginal ultrasound, and pelvic scan.
- Submucosal fibroids - Unlike Intramural fibroids, Submucosal fibroids are the rarest type. They are located inside the uterus, specifically in the middle muscle layer. They are the cause of your heavy menstruation; as a result, most women with submucosal tumors are diagnosed with anemia and are prone to lower hemoglobin.
- Pedunculated fibroids - Pedunculated fibroids have the capability to grow inside and outside your uterus. When they develop outside, they are called pedunculated subserosal fibroids. When they are inside the uterus, they are known as pedunculated submucosal fibroids.
What are the symptoms of uterine fibroids?
Living your life with uterine fibroids can introduce challenges in your daily life. Like other disorders related to reproductive health, most women have to endure severe symptoms.
The severity of the symptoms depends on the size and location of the fibroids. They don’t just grow within your uterus but outside the area as well. When they grow outside, your organs can also be affected.
Here are some common symptoms of uterine fibroids:
- Trouble getting pregnant - You can get pregnant even if you have fibroids. Having uterine fibroids doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t have the chance to bear a child. However it may affect your fertility depending on how big the fibroids are and where they are positioned. It can cause cervix distortion and alterations in the uterus. Your cervix and uterus should be in good health for embryo implantation. While it’s an old knowledge that fibroids can cause miscarriage, the results of the latest researches from Vanderbilt University argues such claim. The study suggests that fibroids should not be considered as the main culprit when a woman has pregnancy complications or having a miscarriage.
- Irregular and heavy menstrual flow - One of the major reasons why you have period clots and heavy menstrual flow is your fibroids. Having uterine fibroids means being prepared to bleed in between periods and having heavy flow for days. For tumors that are positioned in the lining of the uterus, abnormal bleeding is experienced during your menstrual cycle.
- Pelvic Pain - Severe pain in the pelvic area is one of the most common symptoms you may experience if you have disorders related to menstruation and reproductive health. Severe pelvic pain occurs when the fibroids are enlarged. Enlarged fibroids can make it uncomfortable for you to bend over.
- Frequent Urination - A woman with uterine fibroids will always have the urge to urinate frequently in the middle of the night. Fibroids that grow outside the uterus cause bladder and bowel movement issues. As mentioned, your organs are also affected by your fibroids. Aside from frequent trips to the bathroom, some women also experience pain during urination.
- Pain during sex - Enlarged fibroids can cause pain in your abdomen, bladder and uterus. It would be painful to have sex when there is pressure in your uterus. It becomes too painful and uncomfortable when the tumors grow close to your cervix near your vaginal tract.
Most women would hesitate to see a doctor when it’s related to their menstrual cycle thinking that they share the same symptoms with the others. Uterine fibroids are found through some tests.
This is the most common type of test that most doctors would recommend. It is capable of checking your uterus for signs of uterine fibroids and can produce its images.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
MRI can clearly identify the size of the tumors and where they are located. Through MRI, the doctors will know more about the fibroids and the right treatment based on their size and location. It uses radio waves to create images.
Because your doctor needs to check the lining of your uterus and your fallopian tubes as well, he/she will use an instrument that will inject saline into the uterus. The saline helps expand its walls for them to be examined thoroughly. The salt solution aids in producing an ultrasound image.
Treatment of your uterine fibroids depends on their location, size and symptoms. Before undergoing any form of treatment, you doctor will also consider your age and your overall health.
There are some cases when women do not suffer from symptoms and live pain-free lives. Since they are non-cancerous, patients may not feel the need to undergo surgeries or treatment.
There are some doctors who offer natural treatments and suggest ways to live life free from severe symptoms. Most uterine fibroid medications are focused on pain management.
The treatment also deals with your hormones. Managing your hormones is essential in order to treat symptoms such as heavy menstrual flow and cramps.
Though uterine fibroids are non-cancerous, it is important to note that there is a possibility that immediate medical treatment is needed. Fibroid tumors can grow in bigger sizes. They can also be infected and can cause complications with your organs.
Here are some forms of medications and other types of procedures that your health care provider may recommend:
Fibroids can make you bleed heavily during your menstrual cycle. Aside from making sure you won’t get pregnant, a progestin-releasing IUD helps prevent heavy flow. It doesn’t eliminate the fibroids but it is merely focused on treating your symptoms.
Gonadotropin-releasing (Gn-RH) hormone agonists
Your hormones play a big role in helping you relieve your symptoms. The uterine fibroids are more likely to shrink when a woman is premenopausal or under postmenopausal state.
This kind of medication suppresses your estrogen production and puts you into a postmenopausal condition. However, it is not recommended to use Gn-RH for a long time because it might have some serious health complications.
MRI-guided focused ultrasound surgery
MRI helps find the location of the fibroids. When the location is determined, the high-energy ultrasound transducer provided by the MRI scanner heats the fibroids and damages their tissues.
This is procedure is non-invasive and no serious side effects were observed from patients who underwent during and after the procedure. Nonetheless, there is no guarantee that it’s effective and permanent.
Among the other traditional surgical procedures, this type of surgery is the much more risky yet effective. It’s risky because it is a major procedure that involves removing your uterus, therefore you will lose your ability to have children.
Hysterectomy is not an option for young women who still want to bear children and are afraid of health complications. According to research, women who underwent hysterectomy are more prone to heart related diseases.
This surgery targets on removing the fibroids. Although having abdominal myomectomy doesn’t involve removal of the uterus, the risk of infertility is still high because the procedure may damage or scar your uterus.
There are benefits and possible side effects of the treatments suggested by your physician. The best thing to do is to research and discuss them thoroughly to help you choose the best treatment for you. You can also discuss the possibility of developing new fibroids after the surgery.
If you’re the type of person who doesn’t want to undergo surgical or invasive procedures to treat your symptoms, you can choose hormonal therapy or relieve them the natural way.
You can start by changing your diet and research about foods that can worsen the symptoms. If you have heavy bleeding every time you have your period, it’s highly advisable to take vitamins and iron to avoid having anemia.