Health

Fibroids: Identifying the signs to look out for

About one in three women develop fibroid at a point in their life, and for some reason unknown, they occur more frequently among women of African origin. On the other hand, many women don’t know they have fibroid because they don’t experience any symptoms. This happens when the fibroid is small.

Fibroids are abnormal round growth in the uterus; they are mostly benign/ non-cancerous. When a fibroid becomes cancerous, it is called leiomyosarcoma. They are common among women of childbearing age. When fibroids grow large enough, they can cause symptoms that could hurt one’s quality of life and fertility. The severity of the symptoms often depends on the size and the location in the uterus.

Facts about Fibroids

  • Fibroids are the most common tumor of the reproductive system
  • Women who are close to menopause are at higher risk of developing fibroid
  • There are many treatment options for fibroids.
  • The hormone estrogen has a link to fibroids.
  • Fibroids shrink after menopause when the estrogen level is low.
  • Overweight or obese people are at risk of getting fibroid because being obese increases estrogen levels.
  • Symptoms of fibroids vary.
  • Childbearing reduces the risk of developing fibroids, each time a person gives birth, the risk is reduced.

What causes Fibroids?

Although health experts are yet to find the exact cause of fibroids, some factors contribute to the growth of fibroids, such as;

  • Genetic or family history: if you have someone in your family-sister, mother, or grandmother, who has previously had a history of fibroids,  your chance of developing fibroid increases.
  • Obesity:  This increases the estrogen level, increasing the risk of developing fibroids.
  • Early menstruation: someone who started getting her period earlier than usual is at risk of getting fibroid.
  • Increased hormone: female hormones like estrogen and progesterone make fibroid grow. Hormone level increases during pregnancy, making fibroids increase in size.
  • High consumption of Red meat, alcohol, and caffeine has associations with contributing to the risk of having fibroids, foods rich in fiber like fruits and vegetables help reduce the risk.

What are the signs/ symptoms of Fibroids?

Not all women with fibroid are aware that they have it; however, for women who do, the following are the common symptoms they may experience:

  • Menorrhagia: This is common with sub-mucosal fibroids. Women who suffer from this symptom experience prolonged menstrual periods. This symptom has a drastic impact on one’s quality of life.
  • Painful menstrual period: fibroids also make menstrual cramps more intense than usual during menstruation.
  • Feeling pain and pressure in the pelvic region: Because fibroids take up space in the stomach it puts pressure on the uterus/ other organs. This significantly prevents the proper functioning of other organs and leads to acute pain in the pelvic region.
  • Dyspareunia: This is also known as painful sexual intercourse. Although there are many reasons why a woman might be experiencing painful intercourse, fibroids located in the upper part of the uterus can also cause pain during sexual intercourse. Women can also have low libido from the hormonal imbalance caused by fibroids. If you have been experiencing Dyspareunia, you should book an appointment with a doctor right away.
  • Abdominal enlargement:  A large fibroid can enlarge the uterus, thereby leading to the swelling of the stomach and making it distended. This not only makes one appear overweight, but it also hurt ones’ self-image.
  • Infertility: Untreated fibroids can lead to complications like infertility. A fibroid can take up space meant for a fetus in the womb, making it difficult to conceive. It can also cause complications during pregnancy for the mother and child.
  • Pain in the leg and lower-back region: women whose fibroids are at the back of their uterus always experience pain in the back and leg. Because the fibroid is close to the spinal cord, if it becomes too large, it can begin to press on the nerves in the area, thereby sending pain to the back and leg. 
  • Frequent urination: although various factors can cause urinary incontinence when a fibroid grows on top of your uterus, it shares space with your bladder and puts pressure on it, and causes the need to go more often than necessary.
  • Constipation: fibroids can obstruct bowel movement, leading to constipation and anal fissure.

Other symptoms of fibroids include:

  • Excessive/ abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Anemia, as a result of heavy bleeding, may lead to fatigue

Types of Fibroids

Fibroids are categorized based on their location in or on the uterus. The name given to each type describes their location and how they are attached to the uterus, such as;

  • Sub-mucosal fibroids: These fibroids grow inside the uterine space where a baby is supposed to grow during pregnancy. Sub-mucosal fibroids are more problematic and not as common as the other fibroids. These fibroids can increase the risk of having miscarriage or defects. They also cause heavy periods.
  • Intramural fibroids:  These fibroids attach to the muscular wall of the uterus, beneath the endometrium. They can grow larger and expand the womb. These are the most common types of fibroid. Intramural fibroids can cause heavy periods, back pain, and frequent urination. Intramural fibroids are into the following:
  1. An anterior intramural fibroid– this grows at the front muscle wall of the uterus.
  2. A fundal intramural fibroid– this grows on the top muscle wall of the uterus.
  3. A posterior intramural fibroid– this grows at the back muscle wall of the uterus.
  • Subserosal fibroids: They are usually close to the outside wall of the uterus, known as a serosa. They are the most common type. They make the womb look bigger on one side. People that have subserosal fibroids do feel bloated and become constipated with the need to urinate frequently.
  • Pedunculated fibroids:  These are fibroids connected to the outside of the uterus with a thin stalk. They are always described as mushroom-like because of their shape. Pedunculated fibroids can become painful because the stem can become twisted.

How to Treat Fibroids

Treatment of fibroids depends on the size and their location in the uterus. However, because some women do not experience any symptoms from their fibroids, they might not need treatment.  If you are experiencing any symptom of fibroids, your doctor would recommend a treatment or combination of treatments based on the following factors:

  • The number of fibroids in your uterus
  • The size
  • The location
  • The symptoms 
  • Pregnancy history 

The treatment options for fibroids include:

1. Medication

There are different medications your doctor can prescribe for you if you have fibroids. These include:

  • Over-the-counter medication: your doctor can prescribe OTC to help manage the discomforts caused by fibroids, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists: these medications can be in form of nasal spray or injection. They help shrink fibroids. However, if you stop taking this medication, your fibroid can grow back.
  • Oral therapies: these include Elagolix and Tranexamic acid. They help to manage heavy uterine bleeding. These medications have side effects, so ensure your doctor monitors your progress during this therapy.

2. Hormonal Treatments

Your doctor can prescribe birth control to help with symptoms of fibroids, such as; birth control pills and IUD containing progesterone or levonorgestrel. They can help manage the growth of fibroids and heavy bleeding.

 3. Surgery

The following are the form of surgery your doctor might decide to carry out based on the size, location, number of fibroids, and your wish for future pregnancies. 

  • Myomectomy: This surgical option is ideal for people who still want to have children. It is the removal of the fibroids from the muscular walls without damaging the uterus. Women with large fibroids might not qualify for this type of surgery.
  • Hysterectomy: This type of surgery is for large fibroids or fibroids that cause heavy bleeding. It is the partial or total removal of the uterus.
  • Endometrial ablation: If fibroids are by the inner surface of the uterus, this is done by removing the uterine lining. This is carried out instead of a hysterectomy.
  • Uterine fibroid embolization: This is done by restricting blood flow from the fibroids. It makes the fibroids shrink. A chemical would be injected into the arteries that supply the fibroids with blood. This type of surgery is not ideal for pregnant women or those who still want to have children.

Conclusion

Are you still wondering if fibroids be prevented? Generally, fibroids cannot be prevented. However, lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk. Managing your stress and maintaining the right body weight would benefit women with fibroids. If you know you are experiencing any of the symptoms of fibroids, contact us and schedule a consultation today.

Lani Sodunke

SEO & Content Manager

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