What is a fibroid? What are the symptoms and treatment of fibroids?
A fibroid, also known as uterine fibroid or leiomyoma, is a non-cancerous growth that develops in the uterus. It is a common condition that affects many women during their reproductive years. Fibroids can vary in size, ranging from small, pea-sized growths to large, grapefruit-sized tumors. They can develop as a single growth or as multiple growths in the uterus.
The exact cause of fibroids is still unknown, but several factors are believed to contribute to their development. These factors include hormonal imbalances, genetic predisposition, and estrogen and progesterone levels. Fibroids tend to grow in response to estrogen, which is why they commonly occur during the reproductive years when estrogen levels are high.
Symptoms of fibroids can vary depending on their size, number, and location within the uterus. Some women may experience no symptoms at all, while others may experience severe symptoms that significantly impact their quality of life. Common symptoms of fibroids include:
1. Heavy or prolonged menstrual periods: Fibroids can cause heavy bleeding during menstruation, leading to the need for frequent pad or tampon changes. Some women may also experience prolonged periods that last longer than the usual 5-7 days.
2. Pelvic pain and pressure: Large fibroids can cause pelvic pain and discomfort. Women may experience a feeling of fullness or pressure in the lower abdomen, similar to the sensation of being pregnant.
3. Urinary and bowel problems: Fibroids that press against the bladder can cause frequent urination or difficulty emptying the bladder completely. Fibroids located near the rectum can lead to constipation or difficulty with bowel movements.
4. Back and leg pain: Fibroids can cause pain in the lower back and legs, especially if they grow large enough to press against nerves in the pelvic region.
5. Infertility and pregnancy complications: Depending on their size and location, fibroids can interfere with fertility by blocking the fallopian tubes or disrupting the implantation of a fertilized egg. They can also increase the risk of complications during pregnancy, such as miscarriage, preterm labor, or the need for a cesarean section.
Treatment options for fibroids depend on the severity of symptoms, the size and location of the fibroids, and the woman’s desire for future fertility. Some common treatment options include:
1. Watchful waiting: If fibroids are small and not causing any symptoms, a doctor may recommend monitoring them without any active treatment. Regular check-ups and ultrasounds can help track the growth of fibroids and ensure they are not causing any complications.
2. Medications: Hormonal medications, such as birth control pills or gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists, can help regulate hormone levels and shrink fibroids. These medications are typically used as a temporary solution to manage symptoms, as fibroids may regrow once the medication is stopped.
3. Non-invasive procedures: Several non-invasive procedures can be used to treat fibroids, such as uterine artery embolization (UAE) and magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound surgery (MRgFUS). UAE involves blocking the blood supply to the fibroids, causing them to shrink. MRgFUS uses focused ultrasound waves to heat and destroy the fibroids.
4. Minimally invasive surgery: If fibroids are causing severe symptoms or fertility issues, minimally invasive surgical procedures may be recommended. These procedures include laparoscopic or robotic-assisted myomectomy, which involves removing the fibroids while preserving the uterus, or laparoscopic or robotic-assisted hysterectomy, which involves removing the uterus entirely.
5. Traditional surgery: In some cases, traditional open surgery may be necessary to remove fibroids. This is typically recommended for large fibroids or when fertility is not a concern. The surgical procedure is called abdominal myomectomy or abdominal hysterectomy, depending on whether the uterus is preserved or removed.
It is important to note that fibroids are a common condition and not always a cause for concern. Many women with fibroids do not experience any symptoms and may not require treatment. However, if fibroids are causing significant symptoms or fertility issues, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider to discuss the best treatment options available.