Uterine fibroids are benign cell growths inside the uterus. They are in no way related to uterine cancer and their occurrence is pretty common. They are made of muscle fibers that are similar to the uterine lining, but are a little denser. They resemble a circular or semi circular rubbery mass. Their size can range from a few millimeters to massive ones that weigh several pounds. Mostly, uterine fibroids go undetected in the absence of specific symptoms. However, larger fibroids or multiple ones may need to be removed surgically.
Causes of Uterine Fibroids
They mostly affect women in the reproductive age group. It is unusual to find fibroids in girls who are yet to start their menstrual cycle. Similarly, uterine fibroids tend to shrink after menopause. However, they will continue to grow at a slower pace throughout your reproductive years. As the endometrium enriches with blood and tissues during a menstrual cycle, the fibroids can derive their nutrition and will continue to grow. Although, the exact cause of uterine fibroids is yet unknown, the following causes are closely associated with this condition.
Some women are genetically predisposed to developing uterine fibroids. This condition is believed to run in families. Thus, if you have female members on your mother's side who have this condition, your chances of developing this condition increase manifold. Generally, it has been found that daughters and sisters of women with this condition invariably develop fibroids at some point of time during their lives.
For unknown reasons, black women are found to have 2 to 3 times more likelihood of developing fibroids than women of other races. Women of African-American descent are also likely to develop fibroids at a much younger age. Caucasian women are least likely to have uterine fibroids.
Fibroids have more estrogen receptor sites than endometrium. As estrogen is a dominant female reproductive hormone, its presence often triggers the fibroid growth. This phenomenon becomes more pronounced during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, when female hormones are rampant in the body. However, post childbirth, the fibroids shrink back, owing to hormone deficiency. Hormones in the contraceptive pills also contribute to growth and enlargement of uterine fibroids.
Nullipara is a term given to a woman who has never given birth in her life. Nulliparity is somehow associated with development of uterine fibroids.
Onset of menarche before the age of 10 also elevates your risk of developing uterine fibroids during your later years.
Symptoms and Treatment
Symptoms of uterine fibroids are almost absent if the fibroid mass is very small. However, multiple or large fibroids may cause symptoms that are detectable. Given below are a few common symptoms of uterine fibroids.
- Enlarged uterus
- Very heavy menstrual bleeding, sometimes with clots
- Frequent periods or bleeding between periods
- Painful urination or inability to urinate
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Pressure on rectum, if the mass is large
- Urgency to urinate, if the mass is large
- Increase in waist/abdominal size
Size, number and nature of fibroids can be detected using abdominal or transvaginal ultrasound. Usually, a surgery is the only option to remove fibroids. Treatment options are discussed with the patients after taking into account her general health and desire to have children in future. Hysterectomy may be recommended for women who suffer from very heavy bleeding and have no desire to have children.
If you belong to any of the risk groups mentioned above, it is imperative that you get a routine pelvic exam done to rule out the possibility of uterine fibroids.