Fibroids are the most common kind of benign tumors found in the body. Fibroids are commonly found in a woman’s uterus. While they are non cancerous, that does not mean that they cannot cause problems. Fibroids form or attach to the uterine wall. They can be in clusters of tumors or a single growth. They can cause pelvic pain, heavy menstrual bleeding and even frequent urination.
Who is at Risk of Fibroids?
1 in 5 women over the age of 35 have at least one fibroid tumor. Fibroid tumors are the cause for over one third of the hysterectomies performed each year. Many times women who are at great risk of having fibroids meet one or more of the following risk factors. Women who have a family history of fibroids, women who are obese, women who have never given birth, women who have had their periods begin before ten years of age and women of African American descent are at a greater risk of developing fibroids.
Symptoms of Fibroids
While there are symptoms that are associated with fibroids it is not uncommon for even large fibroids to be present without the individual experiencing any symptoms. These fibroids are usually found during a regular pelvic exam. Other symptoms that are common with fibroids include:
- Heavy, painful menstruations
- Irregular bleeding, sometimes with clots
- A urgent need to urinate and frequent urination
- Feeling full all the time in the lower abdomen
- Increased size around the waist without significant weight gain
Causes of Fibroids
Fibroids are caused by the levels of estrogen which feed the growing tumor. These fibroids can show up as early as a woman’s 20′s and shrink once she has hit menopause and estrogen levels have decreased. Fibroids grow slowly over time and can be small and insignificant, but can also grow to weigh several pounds. The size and location of the fibroid in the uterus will play a role as to whether it will cause problems.
Over the Counter Treatments
There are no over the counter treatments for fibroids.
Alternative Fibroids Treatments
There are not really any alternative treatments for fibroids. You can pay close attention and keep a diary of symptoms and your menstruation cycle to better help your health care provider diagnosis if there is a concern for removal or biopsy of the fibroids.
When to Seek Medical Attention?
It is important to inform your health care provider if you have:
- Irregular or heavy menstrual periods
- Break through bleeding in between periods
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Night Sweats
- Concerns of infertility or difficulty becoming pregnant
- Increase size in the abdomen
If you experience any of the following symptoms it is vital to be seen in an Emergency room right away:
* A period which soaks more than 3 pads per hour
* Severe or worsening abdominal or pelvic pain
* Dizziness, chest pain or shortness of breath associated with vaginal bleeding
* Vaginal Bleeding associated with a pregnancy or possible pregnancy
Medical Treatments for Fibroids
Sometimes medication or surgery is required to relieve pain and other symptoms of fibroids.
Medications given for Fibroids include birth control pills, NSAIDS, Gonadotropin, and the anti hormonal drug RU-486. While some of these medication are used to shrink or prevent the growth of the fibroids, others simply help relieve the symptoms of the fibroids.
There are several surgical procedures that can be performed to help with fibroids. The first and most common procedure is a D+C (Dilation + Curettage). This procedure is used to treat abnormal vaginal bleeding by scraping the inside of the uterine wall.
The next procedure is Myomectomy which is simply the removal of only the fibroid tumor. This can be performed through laparoscopic surgery or through an open procedure. This surgery is less invasive than a hysterectomy and will still allow for conception.
A hysterectomy is the next procedure in which the uterus is removed from the females body. This will leave you unable to bear children again.
The final procedure is called a Uterine artery emobolization. In this procedure surgeons cut off the blood supply to the fibroid.