What Are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids, also called leiomyomas or myomas are noncancerous growths that develop from the muscle tissue of the uterus. These tumors vary in size, shape, and location within the uterine lining. They may be present inside the uterus, on its outer surface or within its wall, or attached to it by a stem-like structure.
There are women that may have only one fibroid or many of varying sizes. The growth pattern of fibroids could vary as they may remain very small for a long time and suddenly grow rapidly, or grow slowly over a number of years.
Who Is Likely to Have Fibroids?
Fibroids are more prevalent in women between the ages of 30 and 40, however, they can occur at any age. African American women have leading cases in fibroids in contrast to other women. The exact cause of fibroids is unknown, but it is speculated that hormones and genetics play a role in the development.
Uterine Fibroids Symptoms
There have been cases in which fibroids cause no symptoms and are found during a routine pelvic exam, or tests or other problems. Although, if you are experiencing the following symptoms, this could be due to fibroids. Some common symptoms include the following:
- Menstrual pain or cramps
- Vaginal bleeding at times other than menstruation
- Longer, more frequent, or heavier menstrual periods
- Anemia from blood loss
- Pain during sex
- Dull, heavy, or sharp pain in the abdomen or lower back
- Enlargement in the uterus or abdomen
- Difficulty or frequent urination
- Constipation, rectal pain or difficult bowel movements
- Abdominal Cramps
Complications Caused by Fibroids
Uterine fibroids can prevent an embryo from implanting and growing. In rare cases, fibroids can be the cause of infertility and complications during pregnancy. Additionally, if fibroids are present there is an increased risk of having a premature delivery. If a patient has fibroids, Columbus Women’s Care recommends removing the fibroids before attempting to get pregnant again.
Diagnosing Uterine Fibroids
Since many patients do not show symptoms, it is common that fibroids are only discovered during a pelvic exam. For patients who have symptoms, our providers at Columbus Women’s Care can confirm the diagnosis. Our office uses blood tests as well as imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis. Imaging exams include ultrasounds, hysterosonography, MRI scan, hysterosalpingography.
In cases where patients are not experiencing symptoms, no treatment is immediately necessary. We will monitor the progress so the fibroids do not cause symptoms to eventually occur. For those with symptoms, both drug therapy and surgery are options for fibroid treatment in women. Drug treatments may not prevent the growth of fibroids, however, they are able to minimize your symptoms. Our fibroid treatment options include the following:
- Birth Control Pills: Hormonal birth control methods have the ability to control heavy bleeding and painful periods.
- Hysterectomy: This is a surgical procedure that removes fibroids that protrude into the cavity of the uterus. This is only an option for women who no longer want to have children as we remove the entire uterus.
- Endometrial ablation: This is an option for women with small fibroids that are less than 3 centimeters. This procedure destroys the lining of the uterus.
- Uterine artery embolization: This procedure is conducted through tiny incisions in the abdomen. The objective of treatment is to cut off the circulation of blood to individual fibroids, thus causing them to shrink.