Fibroids, also called uterine fibroids, are non-cancerous tumors that develop in the uterus. The uterus is one of the female reproductive organs, and can grow either myomas or fibromyomas, which are both types of uterine fibroids. Fibroids can vary widely in their size, ranging from a bean to a melon. Approximately 20% of women will develop fibroids at some point in their life, and it is more common among between 30 and 50. Overweight women have an even higher risk of developing fibroids.
Causes of Fibroids
Uterine fibroids are extremely common, affecting about 1 in 5 women by the time they reach age 50. In fact, about 50% of women at age 50 have had uterine fibroids. They are rarer in young women under 20 and more common in African America women. There is no single cause of fibroids, though it is often associated with the hormone estrogen. If a woman is still menstruating, the fibroids will continue growing, though at a slow pace. There are different types of fibroids, depending on their location in the uterus. They include myometrial in the muscle wall, submucosal under the uterine lining surface, subserosal outside of the uterus lining, and pendunculated which is just outside of the uterus.
Symptoms of Fibroids
A variety of symptoms can alert you to possible fibroids. Many of them include heavy bleeding or unusual cramping. Bleeding between periods, heavy menstrual bleeding including the passage of blood clots, long menstrual periods, needing to urinate more often than you used to, pain with periods or pelvic cramping, pain during intercourse, and a feeling of pressure or fullness in your abdomen could signal fibroids. However keep in mind that in many cases there aren’t any signs or symptoms of uterine fibroids.
Diagnosing and Treating Fibroids
The typical diagnosis for fibroids begins with a pelvic exam which can show a change in your uterus shape. If you are obese, it may be difficult to diagnose fibroids and may need additional testing. Other tests for diagnosing fibroids include an ultrasound, pelvic MRI, laparoscopy, or endometrial biopsy. The treatment process will vary depending on your health, severity of symptoms, age, whether you are currently pregnant and if you want children in the future. If you have mild symptoms, you may just need regular monitoring of the fibroids size via pelvic exam or ultrasound. Treatments include taking birth control pills, iron supplements, anti-inflammatory drugs, hormonal therapy injections and possible surgery.