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Fibroid Symptoms, Causes and When to Seek Help: Everything to Know About Uterine Fibroids

Fibroid Symptoms, Causes and When to Seek Help: Everything to Know About Uterine Fibroids

Most women may never even know that they had fibroids in their lifetimes, thus it's always good to be aware of whatever is going on in your body.

Uterine fibroids are abnormal growth in a woman's uterus and while they are rarely life-threatening they can impact your day-to-day routine. These tumors which are typically noncancerous can cause severe abdominal pain and heavy periods. However, in some cases, there aren't any symptoms or signs whatsoever. Although the cause of fibroids remains unknown to this day, it's a fact that almost 80 percent of women do have them by the time they are 50, per the Office on Women’s Health. Most women may never even know that they had fibroids in their lifetimes, thus it's always good to be aware of whatever is going on in your body.

Representative image source: Getty | Photo by metamorworks

Types

Now the symptoms may vary based on the type of fibroid you develop. According to Healthline, these benign tumors are segregated based on their location, for example Subserosal fibroids, called serosa, appear on the outer region of your uterus and grow large enough to make your womb seem bigger on one side. Pedunculated fibroids are subserosal tumors that can develop a stem, like a slender base upon which the tumor is supported. Intramural fibroids on the other hand form within the muscular wall of the uterus and are the most common type of fibroids. As it grows, it may stretch your womb. Submucosal fibroids develop in your uterus's middle muscle layer or myometrium. But they aren't very common.

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Symptoms

In many cases, women with fibroids do not have any symptoms but those who do may experience heavy menstrual bleeding, periods that last more than a week, pain or pressure in the pelvic region, frequent urination, constipation, lower backache, or pain in the leg, and difficulty emptying the bladder, according to Mayo Clinic. It can also vary based on the type, location, and the number of tumors, for instance, you may experience heavy menstrual bleeding or have trouble conceiving if you have submucosal fibroids.

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Fibroids may shrink during or after menopause as women experience a drop in their levels of estrogen and progesterone which are hormones that stimulate fibroid growth. If the tumors are extremely small or say you're going through menopause you may not even experience any symptoms.

Causes

While the exact reason for it is unknown, there are some factors that research points towards:

Extracellular matrix (ECM): It is the material that helps stick cells together. Increased ECM is found in fibroids that make them fibrous. ECM itself contains growth factors that cause biological changes in the cells.

Hormones: During every menstrual cycle, estrogen and progesterone stimulate the development of the uterine lining to prepare for pregnancy. It also promotes the growth of fibroids. Fibroids have more estrogen and progesterone receptors with respect to normal uterine muscle cells and can shrink after menopause.

Representative image source: Getty | Photo by Burak Karademir

Pregnancy: Increased production of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy can promote the rapid growth of fibroids.

Family gene: If your mother or grandmother has a history of this condition, you can possibly develop it.

Obesity, vitamin D deficiency, race, and poor diet that includes more red meat and less green vegetables, dairy, fruits, can increase one's risk of developing the condition.

When to seek help

Consult a doctor if you have painful periods that are unusually heavy and longer, spotting or bleeding between periods, unexplained anemia, constant pelvic pain, difficulty while emptying your bladder. Make sure you immediately seek medical help if you experience severe vaginal bleeding or sharp pelvic pain that comes and goes suddenly.

Uterine fibroids aren't usually dangerous. They can cause discomfort and may lead to complications like a drop in red blood cells. This could in turn cause fatigue. In rare cases, a transfusion may be required. It doesn't interfere with pregnancy most of the time but submucosal fibroids can cause infertility or pregnancy loss. In case of very large or multiple growths, surgery may be performed to remove it. There are noninvasive surgical procedures to shrink or destroy these fibroids as well.

Prevention

Despite years of research, experts still haven't been able to come up with a way to prevent uterine fibroids. But the good news is that only a small percentage of tumors require treatment and some can even be managed with medication. However, you can reduce the risk of developing fibroids by making healthy lifestyle choices such as maintaining a normal weight, eating food rich in flavonoids like green tea, green vegetable, and fruits.

Treatment

Consuming cold-water fish like salmon or tuna, and avoiding high-calorie food and meats can help. Reducing your weight if you're overweight and managing your stress levels can also benefit women who have fibroids. Yoga and acupuncture can also have a positive effect on fibroids as well as massage. Apart from these home remedies, doctors can prescribe a combination of treatments based on the size of your fibroids, your age, and overall health.

References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/uterine-fibroids/symptoms-causes/syc-20354288

https://www.healthline.com/health/uterine-fibroids#treatment

https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/uterine-fibroids

Representative cover image source: Getty Images | Photo by Viktoriia Ilina

Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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