Fibroids, also known as uterine fibroids or leiomyomas, are benign (non-cancerous) growths that develop in the uterus. They are common, with up to 80% of women developing them at some point in their lives. While fibroids are usually not life-threatening, they can cause discomfort and affect fertility. They can vary in size, from a small pea to a large grapefruit. Fibroids can be located inside the uterus, outside the uterus, or within the uterine wall. While the exact cause of fibroids is unknown, they are thought to be influenced by hormones, particularly estrogen.
Symptoms of Fibroids
Many women with fibroids do not experience any symptoms. However, when symptoms do occur, they may include:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Prolonged menstrual periods
- Painful periods
- Pelvic pain or pressure
- Frequent urination
- Difficulty emptying the bladder
- Infertility or miscarriage
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to talk to your doctor to determine the cause and appropriate treatment, and possibly rule out differential diagnoses, since some medical conditions can present with similar signs and symptoms.
Treatment for uterine fibroids depends on the severity of symptoms and the size and location of the fibroids. Treatment options may include:
- Watchful waiting: If the fibroids are small and not causing any symptoms, your doctor may recommend monitoring them with regular pelvic exams and imaging tests.
- Medications: Hormonal medications, such as birth control pills, can help regulate menstrual bleeding and reduce the size of fibroids. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists can also help shrink fibroids.
- Surgery: If the fibroids are large or causing severe symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove them. This may be done through laparoscopic surgery, which involves making small incisions in the abdomen, or through open surgery, which involves making a larger incision. In some cases, a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) may be recommended, particularly if the fibroids are large or if the woman no longer wants to have children.
While it may not be possible to prevent all fibroids, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk, such as:
- Maintaining a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of developing fibroids.
- Limiting alcohol consumption: Heavy alcohol consumption may increase your risk of developing fibroids.
- Quitting smoking: Smoking may increase your risk of developing fibroids.
- Seeing your doctor regularly: Regular pelvic exams and imaging tests can help detect fibroids early
Fibroids are a common condition that affects many women. While they are usually not life-threatening, they can cause discomfort and affect fertility. If you experience any symptoms of fibroids, it’s important to talk to your doctor to determine the cause and appropriate treatment. By taking steps to reduce your risk of developing fibroids, you can help protect your reproductive health.