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 crazy uncomfortable…and annoying!
How Do I Know if I Have Them?
Some women may not have any symptoms, but many 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:
- In the abdomen or lower back (often dull, heavy and aching, but it may be sharp)
- During sex
- Difficulty urinating or frequent urination
- Constipation, rectal pain or difficult bowel movements
- Abdominal cramps
- Enlarged uterus and abdomen
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. So it might be good to start a conversation!
- 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. As if being the first of your friends wasn’t bad enough.
- 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. Women with fibroids are also more likely to suffer from complications during pregnancy and delivery, so it’s essential that you 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. Your doctor may also find fibroids during a pelvic exam, but she will do imaging tests, such as an ultrasound, to confirm the results. If results are still inconclusive, you might need additional imaging, laparoscopy or hysteroscopy. In a laparoscopy, the doctor inserts a scope (tiny camera) through a small abdominal incision to view the uterus and other organs. In a hysteroscopy, the doctor will insert the scope through the vagina and cervix into the uterus without making an abdominal incision.
How Can They be Treated?! You have options! Click this link: WHAT THE HECK ARE UTERINE FIBROIDS? (PART II) #DrNita