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Uterine fibroids impact the lives of millions of women and their loved ones in the U.S. every year. Surgery and medications are often the most appropriate treatments for symptomatic fibroid patients.
What Are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids, also known as myoma or uterine leiomyomata, are the most common benign (noncancerous) uterine growths in women of childbearing age. The fibroids arise from muscle cells and other tissues within the wall of the uterus. Fibroids can occur individually or as clusters of varying sizes. Fibroid growth is dependent on hormone levels; an increase in a woman's hormone levels may cause the size of fibroid growth. After menopause occurs, the body's production of these fibroid causing hormones decreases dramatically, and as a result, the fibroid(s) may reduce in size. Uterine fibroids are classified according to their location.
The following are the primary types of fibroids:
- Subserosal Fibroids - These fibroids develop in the outer portion of the uterus and continue to grow outward.
- Intramural Fibroids - The most common type of fibroid, which develops within the uterine wall and expands, making the uterus feel larger than normal (which may cause bloating, pelvic pressure, and other general discomfort known as "bulk symptoms").
- Submucosal Fibroids - These fibroids develop just under the lining of the uterine cavity. These are the fibroids that often cause abnormal or extensive menstrual bleeding, and the ones that can cause problems with infertility and miscarriage.
- Pedunculated Fibroids - Fibroids that grow on a small stalk which connects them to the inner or outer wall of the uterus.
What are the Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids?
Symptoms are related to the size and location of the fibroids. These fibroid related symptoms often affect a woman's quality of life. For many women, fibroid symptoms become so unbearable that they require treatment. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms of fibroids, you may wish to speak with your physician:
- Heavy bleeding or painful periods
- Frequent urination (results from a fibroid pressing on the bladder)
- Bleeding between periods
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Feeling "full" in the lower abdomen
- Lower back pain
- Distended abdomen which may be mistaken for weight gain or pregnancy
- Difficulty becoming pregnant
The majority of these symptoms are due to the fact that as fibroids grow, the uterus in enlarged, and the space normally occupied by other organs is invaded. As a result, pressure may be placed on the surrounding nerves, organs, spine, or pelvic bone, which may result in frequent pain and discomfort. As the fibroids encroach into the endometrium, a bleeding reaction is triggered and there is a chance for fibroids to cause infertility.
How Will My Physician Tell If I Have Fibroids?
If you believe you are suffering from uterine fibroids, please consult your physician. You should talk with your physician about your concerns during your annual gynecological examination or during a special visit to investigate symptoms similar to those related to uterine fibroids. Your doctor will check your uterus and if it feels enlarged an abdominal or transvaginal ultrasound or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam of your pelvis will be prescribed and performed. These imaging techniques can confirm the presence, location, and size of fibroids. After identifying the size and location of your fibroids, and possibly after other diagnostic tests, your doctor may be able to rule out other conditions, advise you of your options, and recommend a course of treatment for fibroids.
How Are Uterine Fibroids Treated?
There are many options for the treatment of uterine fibroids, and your physician is the best person to discuss treatments with you. Treatments include:
- Watchful waiting
- Abdominal myomectomy
- Laparoscopic or hysteroscopic myomectomy
- Uterine artery embolization
- Hormone Therapy
To schedule an appointment with a Houston Methodist physician, please call 713-790-3333.