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WHAT ARE UTERINE FIBROIDS? (PART I)

Suffering from heavy menstrual bleeding, having problems peeing, or having pain during sexual intercourse? Uterine fibroids could be why. Let me explain. Uterine fibroids, also known as uterine leiomyomas or myomas, are smooth muscle tumors that grow in and around the wall of the uterus, and, depending on their size and location, they can cause lots of different symptoms. I know that they sound really scary, but the good news is these tumors are almost always benign (non-cancerous).  Nevertheless, they can still be really uncomfortable…and annoying!

How Do I Know if I Have Them?

Many women do not have any symptoms, but some will experience one or more of the typical symptoms—the most common being menstrual bleeding so heavy or so frequent that you might develop anemia. In addition to menstrual changes, you might experience one or more of the following:                                             

  • Pain
    • In the abdomen or lower back (often dull, heavy and aching, but it may be sharp)
    • During sex
  • Pressure
    • Difficulty urinating or frequent urination
    • Constipation, rectal pain or difficult bowel movements
    • Abdominal cramps                                                                   
  • Enlarged uterus and abdomen
  • Miscarriages
  • Infertility

A woman may have only one fibroid or many of varying sizes.  A fibroid might remain very small for a long time and suddenly grow rapidly, or grow slowly over a number of years.

How Could I Get Them?

No one knows for sure what causes fibroids, but they are very common.  One study found that between 80% and 90% of African American women and 70% of white women will develop fibroids by age 50. Fibroids typically shrink after menopause, when levels of reproductive hormones drop. These are the factors that might be to blame:

  • Estrogen and progesterone hormones are likely culprits for causing uterine fibroids. Thanks, Mother Nature.
  • You can also be genetically predisposed, so if your mother, sister or aunt has uterine fibroids, you might be more likely to develop them. 
  • There is evidence that African-American women suffer from uterine fibroids at higher rates.  
  • If you began to menstruate at an early age, you might be more likely to develop uterine fibroids. 
  • Preventable risk factors include: obesity; a vitamin D deficiency; having a diet higher in red meat and lower in green vegetables, fruit and dairy; and drinking alcohol, including beer.

What Could Go Wrong?

While most uterine fibroids are benign, there is a small chance (less than 1 in 1,000) that the tumor could be a cancerous fibroid, called a leiomyosarcoma. Some women with fibroids experience complications during pregnancy and delivery, so talk to your doctor if you have fibroids and are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant. In some cases, fibroids can cause infertility; however, other factors should be explored before fibroids are considered the cause of a couple’s infertility. Furthermore, when fibroids are thought to be the cause, many women can become pregnant after the fibroids are treated.

What If I Think I Have Fibroids?

If you have symptoms, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. In addition to performing a physical exam, she will order imaging tests, such as an ultrasound, to confirm the diagnosis.

How Can They be Treated?!  You have options!  Click this link:   WHAT ARE UTERINE FIBROIDS? (PART II)  #DrNita

One Reply to “WHAT ARE UTERINE FIBROIDS? (PART I)”

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