Uterine Fibroids – What to Do
Uterine growths can be either harmless or dangerous. Harmless growths or benign growths are non-cancerous and does not pose a threat. One such uterine growth is a polyp of the cervix. Another benign growth is a uterine fibroid though it can still cause annoying problems such as bleeding.
The cause of uterine fibroids is unknown. Family history may be involved as there is often a history of women in the same family developing these fibroids. Another unknown matter is why fibroids are three times more common in non-Caucasian women. Another factor is that overweight women are more likely to develop fibroids.
A fibroid is medically known as a leiomyoma, which is an unusual growth of smooth muscle tissue. Uterine fibroids arise from the tissue in the myometrium which is the muscle layer in the wall of the uterus. They are benign.
For most women with fibroids, there are generally no problems and they usually only become aware of their presence when they are detected during other diagnostic or therapeutic procedures.
Fibroids often cause no symptoms. However, larger fibroids may cause pressure, pelvic pain, pressure on the bladder, difficulty in passing urine, and pressure on the rectum causing pain during bowel movements.
Abnormal bleeding is a common symptom of a fibroid. This may be in the form of heavy or painful periods, lengthy periods or spotting between periods. If there is severe localised pain, it generally means that the uterine fibroids are deteriorating.
Although uterine fibroids are benign, they are commonly the reason for hysterectomy because of the bleeding. Sometimes the bleeding can be so significant as to cause anaemia. . Luckily, there are numerous non-surgical means on hand to treat fibroids.
Although fibroids do not need treatment, complications may develop. These include recurrent miscarriages, infertility, and complications in childbirth. However, these are usually only if there is unusual distortion of the uterus.
So how do you know if you have fibroids? Fibroids are detected through manual pelvic examination and any concerns are confirmed by ultrasound. It is very similar to a pregnancy examination and the doctor only orders more complex testing if unsure of the exact nature of the uterine growth found.
There are a number of available treatments dependent on severity of the symptoms, age of the woman, pregnancy, general health and type of fibroids. For some women, it is simply a case of regular routine monitoring.
If the fibroids are causing cramps or painful periods, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen or Naprosyn may be recommended. In some cases, birth control pills may be used to control the heavy periods and stop the fibroid from growing in mass. Because of the blood loss, iron supplements may also be required.
Hormonal therapy such as the Depo Leuprolide injection is sometimes prescribed to shrink the fibroids. This drug and others like it, reduce the production of estrogens and progesterone. This puts the hormones in a state similar to menopause and may cause similarly severe side effects such as hot flushes, loss of bone density, and vaginal dryness.
There are also surgical interventions available.
Hysteroscopic resection may be used when the fibroids are growing inside the uterine cavity. This is performed as an outpatient procedure and involves a small camera and instruments being inserted through the cervix into the uterus to remove the fibroids.
Another procedure is uterine artery embolisation where the blood supply to the fibroids is stopped. However, long term effects are yet to be determined and safety of pregnancy following this procedure is uncertain.
A myomectomy is a surgical procedure where only the fibroids are removed. It is frequently the chosen treatment women who still wish to have children, because it does not generally affect fertility.
Call your health care provider if you notice changes in your menstrual pattern such as increased blood flow, more frequent cramping and spotting between periods. You may also experience fullness or heaviness in your lower abdomen. There may also be pressure which affects normal urination.
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