Fibroids are non-cancerous lumps that grow in a woman’s uterus, and they can be as small as a tiny seed or as big as a grapefruit. They are also known as uterine leiomyomas, and can happen to any woman of reproductive age, no matter where they’re from.
While many women with fibroids may not experience any symptoms, others may face a range of physical and emotional challenges that can significantly impact their quality of life. From heavy menstrual bleeding and painful cramps to fertility issues and pregnancy complications, fibroids can have a significant impact on a woman’s health and well-being.
In that regard, let’s explore everything you need to know about fibroids, including their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options, so that you can better understand how they may be affecting your health.
Defining Fibroids: What is it? Who Does it Affect?
Women of reproductive age are typically affected by fibroids, with most cases being diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 50. While fibroids can be asymptomatic, some women may experience common symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, and frequent urination.
What are the Factors Putting You at Risk for Fibroids?
There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing fibroids, including:
- Genetics: If your mother or sister has had fibroids, your risk of developing them is significantly higher.
- Ethnicity: African American women have a higher risk of developing fibroids compared to women of other ethnicities.
- Hormones: Estrogen and progesterone, which are the hormones responsible for the development of the uterine lining, can promote the growth of fibroids.
- Age: As mentioned earlier, women of reproductive age are more likely to develop fibroids. The risk increases with age until menopause when the risk decreases due to a decrease in hormone production.
- Obesity: Women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of developing fibroids.
- Diet: A diet that has mostly red meat, while being low in fruits and vegetables can increase the risk of fibroids.
How Do Fibroids Affect Your Overall Health?
While many women with fibroids may not experience any symptoms, others may suffer from various health issues that can profoundly impact their quality of life. These issues include:
1. Heavy menstrual bleeding: Fibroids can lead to heavy and prolonged periods, which can result in anemia and fatigue.
2. Pelvic pain and pressure: Large fibroids can cause significant discomfort and pressure in the pelvic region.
3. Frequent urination: Fibroids pressing on the bladder can lead to frequent urination and, in some cases, urinary incontinence.
4. Pain during intercourse: Fibroids can cause discomfort or pain during sexual activity.
5. Infertility and pregnancy complications: Fibroids can interfere with the implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus, resulting in infertility. They can also cause complications during pregnancy, such as preterm labor and the need for a cesarean section.
Exploring the Treatments for Fibroids
Treatment for fibroids depends on factors such as the size, location, and symptoms associated with the fibroids. Some of the available treatment options include:
1. Watchful Waiting: If fibroids are asymptomatic, a doctor may recommend monitoring the condition without any intervention.
2. Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help alleviate pain and inflammation caused by fibroids. Hormonal therapies, like birth control pills and gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists, can help regulate hormone levels and alleviate heavy menstrual bleeding.
3. Uterine Artery Embolization: This minimally invasive procedure involves injecting small particles into the arteries that supply blood to the fibroids, effectively cutting it off from receiving any more blood, and causing them to shrink.
4. Myomectomy: This surgical procedure involves the removal of fibroids while preserving the uterus. It can be performed using laparoscopic or open surgery techniques, depending on the size and location of the fibroids.
5. Hysterectomy: In severe cases, a complete removal of the uterus may be recommended. This is a permanent solution and is only considered when other treatment options have been unsuccessful or if the woman does not wish to have any more children.
The Bottom Line
Fibroids are a common health concern for women, and understanding the causes, effects, and treatment options is crucial for maintaining overall well-being. If you suspect you may have fibroids, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best course of action for your unique situation.
With proper guidance and treatment, many women can effectively manage fibroids and maintain a healthy, fulfilling life.
If you’re looking for an experienced obstetrician in Forest Hills, NY, look no further than Barbara A. Hessel, MD. FACOG. She’s committed to providing high-quality obstetrical care and helping her patients achieve a better reproductive health. Contact her today to get started!