Fibroids – Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Fibroids are the most common non-cancerous tumors in women of childbearing age. Fibroids are made of muscle cells and other tissues that grow in and around the wall of the uterus, or womb. The cause of fibroids is unknown. Risk factors include being African-American or being overweight.
Fibroids are most common in women aged 30-40 years, but they can occur at any age. Fibroids occur more often in black women than in white women. They also seem to occur at a younger age in black women and grow more quickly.
Never having given birth to a child (called nulliparity)
Onset of your period prior to age 10
African American heritage (occurring 3-9 times more often than in Caucasian women)
Obesity is associated with the presence of uterine fibroids. (Of course, which came first — the weight or the fibroids — is still an unanswered question.)
Consumption of beef, red meat (other than beef), and ham has been associated with the presence of uterine fibroids.
Most fibroids don’t cause symptomsa”only 10 to 20 percent of women who have fibroids require treatment. Depending on size, location and number of fibroids, they may cause:
Heavy, prolonged menstrual periods and unusual monthly bleeding, sometimes with clots. This can lead to anemia.
Pelvic pain and pressure
Pain in the back and legs
Heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia), sometimes with the passage of blood clots
Sudden, severe pain due to a pedunculated fibroid
The most common symptom is prolonged and heavy bleeding during menstruation. This is caused by fibroid growth bordering the uterine cavity. In severe cases, heavy bleeding may last as long as 2 weeks. Fibroids rarely bleed between periods, except in a few cases of very large fibroids.
Diagnosis is usually accomplished by bimanual examination, better yet by gynecologic ultrasonography, commonly known as “ultrasound.” Sonography will depict the fibroids as focal masses with a heterogeneous texture, which usually cause shadowing of the ultrasound beam. In cases where a more precise assay of the fibroid burden of the uterus is needed, also magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to definite the depiction of the size and location of the fibroids within the uterus.
How are fibroids treated?
There are many treatments for women with fibroids. Medicine can shrink some fibroids. Some women need surgery. A new way to treat women with fibroids is called uterine fibroid embolization.
Androgens. Your ovaries and your adrenal glands, located above your kidneys, produce androgens, the so-called male hormones. Given as medical therapy, androgens can relieve fibroid symptoms.
Vaginal, or hysteroscopic, myomectomy. Performed through the vagina and cervix, this procedure uses an instrument called a resectoscope, which allows surgeons to view the uterine fibroids through a small fiber optic device. The surgeons are able to shave off the fibroid growths using a hot electrified wire. This technique is used on small submucous uterine fibroids.
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