Symptoms and Treatments for Uterine Fibroids

Uterine fibroids are benign growths or lumps found on the smooth muscle in the wall of the uterus. Fibroids often appear during women’s child-bearing years and can be difficult to detect. While technically tumors, these growths are noncancerous. They can grow in clusters or appear individually.

All the causes are not yet fully understood, but genetics can play a role.

Common Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids

Symptoms can vary depending on the location, size, and number of fibroids present, and many women experience no symptoms at all. However, some typical symptoms include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Constipation
  • Backache
  • Pelvic pressure or pain
  • Periods lasting more than one week
  • Painful sex
  • Painful urination
  • Discomfort in the rectum

If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, it’s recommended that you make an appointment with your doctor:

  • Difficulty emptying bladder
  • Persistent pelvic pain
  • Inability to control the flow of urine
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Very painful periods
  • Lumps in the abdomen
  • Anemia (symptoms include dizziness, fatigue and low energy, insomnia, paleness, and leg cramps)

Uncontrollable bleeding or very sharp, sudden pelvic pain warrants a visit to your doctor as soon as possible.

Diagnosing Uterine Fibroids

Your doctor can do an ultrasound to help determine whether you have uterine fibroids. Essentially, the ultrasound takes a picture of your uterus, allowing the medical professional to see whether you have fibroids and, if so, how many, how big they are, and where they’re located.

If not enough information can be gleaned from the ultrasound, your doctor may recommend getting an MRI for a more detailed look at your uterus, or a hysterosonography.

If there’s concern that you may not be able to have children due to fibroids blocking your fallopian tubes, you can have a hysterosalpingography done, which takes X-rays of your uterus and fallopian tubes.

Annual pelvic exams will help ensure that any fibroids are spotted—and treated, if necessary—as soon as possible.

Treatments for Uterine Fibroids

If it’s determined that you do have uterine fibroids, a course of treatment may be recommended. Not all cases require treatment; it all depends on the size, location, and number of fibroids present, as well as the severity of your symptoms and their impact on your quality of life.

Some fibroids don’t become larger, and most will shrink or go away after menopause. As mentioned earlier, some women experience them only while pregnant. In fact, ibuprofen can ease mild discomfort without further medicine or treatment needed.

If you require treatment, however, your doctor may recommend:

  • Hormone therapy — Studies have shown that there may be a correlation between fibroids and your levels of the sex hormones progesterone and estrogen. To address this, your doctor may recommend that you stop taking birth control pills or cease hormone replacement therapy. In certain cases, however, birth control pills are recommended to help ease heavy bleeding and anemia.
  • Selective estrogen receptor modulators — These medicines—often used for the treatment of breast cancer, osteoporosis, and postmenopausal symptoms—affect your estrogen levels and can help shrink the size of fibroids, easing pain and bleeding.
  • Gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists — These medicines counter GnRH, a naturally occurring hormone, and can be used to shrink uterine fibroids and ease anemia. These medicines shouldn’t be taken for extended periods of time as they can weaken the bones.

For more serious cases, the following treatments and procedures are available:

  • Endometrial ablation — To reduce bleeding caused by fibroids, this procedure, in which the uterus lining is removed, may be recommended. This results in no or much lighter periods.
  • Fibroid embolization — This can greatly reduce the size of uterine fibroids by blocking the blood supply from the arteries that feed the fibroids. You may be required to spend a few nights in the hospital afterward. And although this is not a surgical procedure, nausea, vomiting, and pain can occur after the treatment.
  • Myomectomy — This surgery is typically recommended for women hoping to become pregnant in the future. By removing the fibroids, myomectomy eliminates symptoms for most women, though in some cases, fibroids can come back.
  • Hysterectomy — In very extreme cases, the uterus can be removed, eliminating fibroids completely. After a hysterectomy, you will not be able to get pregnant. This option is rarely recommended.

Learn More About Uterine Fibroids

If you think you may have uterine fibroids or want to speak to an expert about specific symptoms and treatment options, reach out to Pacific Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group today. We’re on hand to address any questions or concerns you may have.

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