Are you suffering from heavy menstrual periods? Do your menses last longer than normal? Are you going through frequent abdominal pain? If your answer to the above-mentioned questions is “Yes”, then you may have uterine fibroids.
These fibroids are a form of non-cancerous growth that happens in the muscle cells of the uterus. From one to many, women can have a different number of fibroids varying in sizes. It can be as smaller as a tiny seed to as larger as a bulky mass. These are found incidentally during pelvic examinations without a proper test. And after that, Imaging and lab tests are usually carried out to confirm the presence of these fibroids.
Approximately, 20-40% of women who have attained menopause suffer from fibroids. According to some doctors, this number is estimated to be even higher. In fact, only 5-10% of women with them actually face any symptoms. The nature of fibroids is usually non-dangerous and they do not spread to other parts of the body but when they started showing symptoms, they can be severe.
Since most women having fibroids don’t experience any symptoms, it makes the condition even more serious. However, women who don’t experience any symptoms often have to make drastic lifestyle changes to deal with them. Suffering from fibroids can lead to uncertain menses which further make women to feel discomfort and uneasiness. And the most challenging aspect of this condition is the way it affects a woman’s peace of mind.
The symptoms of uterine fibroids completely depend on the number of tumors a woman has. Their location and size is also a major factor. For example, submucosal fibroids may lead to heavy menstrual bleeding and troubles in having pregnancy.
Women having smaller tumors or the ones who have already attained menopause, may not face any symptoms because fibroids may shrink during or post menopause as they experience a drop in their estrogen and progesterone levels which used to stimulate their growth. Symptoms of uterine fibroids include-
1 Prolonged, heavy or abnormal menstrual bleeding which often leads to the possibility of anaemia.
2 Severe pain in the pelvis. Pain in back and legs is also a symptom in many cases.
3 Pain during physical intercourse
4 Pressure in the bladder leads to frequent urge to urinate
5 Constipation due to pressure in the bowel
6 Abnormal abdomen swelling
There is no clear cause behind the development of fibroids but there are several factors which may influence the formation of fibroids. Causes of uterine fibroids include-
1 Hormones- Hormones including estrogen and progesterone are produced by women’s ovaries. These hormones lead the uterine lining to regenerate during every menstrual cycle and may stimulate the growth of fibroids.
2 Family History- The condition of uterine fibroids may run in the family. If your family members including your grandmother, sister or mother has had a history of fibroids, then you may develop it as well.
3 Pregnancy- Pregnancy increases the production of estrogen and progesterone hormones in a woman’s body as a result of which, fibroids may grow and develop rapidly during pregnancy.
These are some of the major causes of uterine fibroids.
For fibroids to be diagnosed properly, you will need to consult a gynaecologist. After going through the pelvic exam, the doctor will be able to analyze the condition, size and shape of the uterus. You may have to go through other tests for a precise and detailed diagnosis which include-
1 Ultrasound Scan-
An ultrasound scan uses high-frequency waves which produces images of woman’s uterus on a screen. This will help your specialist to analyze its internal structures and presence of fibroids. In this case, a transvaginal ultrasound scan may provide clearer pictures for a better diagnosis as here; an ultrasound wand is inserted in the vagina as it is closer to the uterus during the procedure.
2 Pelvic MRI-
Pelvic MRI is an in-depth imaging test procedure which produces clear pictures of woman’s uterus, ovaries and other pelvic organs.
In such condition, changes in diet and lifestyle may help as well. Avoiding meat and high-calorie foods and opting food high in flavonoids, green leafy vegetables, green tea and fishes like tuna or salmon can be very helpful.
Managing stress levels and losing weight in case of obesity can also benefit women suffering from fibroids.
Once you visit your doctor regarding your problems related to fibroids, he will develop a treatment plan according to your age, the size of your uterine fibroids and your overall health. You may need to go through a combination of treatments. The treatments of uterine fibroids include-
To treat uterine fibroids, medications are prescribed to regulate your hormone levels so as to shrink them.
Gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists including leuprolide (Lepron) helps in dropping the levels of estrogen and progesterone hormones. Prominent drop in the levels of these hormones will eventually stop menses and shrink the fibroids.
GnRH antagonists, including cetrorelix acetate and ganilrelix acetate, also help in shrinking fibroids. They help in inhibiting your body from producing FSH (Follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (Luteinizing hormone).
There are other options too which helps in controlling menstrual bleeding and pain, but they won’t shrink or eliminate fibroids. These include,
1 Birth control pills
2 An intrauterine device (IUD) which releases the progestin hormone
3 Over the counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory pain relievers including ibuprofen etc.
Multiple or larger growths may be removed through surgery. This process of removal is called myomectomy which involves carrying out a larger incision in the abdominal part to access the uterus and remove the fibroid growth. The surgery can also be performed through laparoscopy with the help of few small incisions through which surgical tools and a camera is inserted. But there is a probability that fibroids might grow after the surgery.
Even after this procedure, if your condition doesn’t stop degrading and no other treatments are working then your specialist may perform hysterectomy. However, this procedure involves the removal of uterus forbidding you from bearing children naturally in the future.
The prognosis of fibroids completely depends on their size and location. Some fibroids may not need treatment if they are small and don’t show any symptoms.
If a woman is pregnant and has fibroids or she is yet to become pregnant and have fibroids then her doctor will carefully monitor her condition. In many cases, fibroids don’t cause any problems during pregnancy.
It’s better to consult your doctor when you are trying to get pregnant with fibroids and share even the minute health details with them for better and precise treatment.
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