Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growth of the uterus which mostly develop during the childbearing age in the women. It is also known as uterine leiomyomas or fibroids, they are benign muscle tumour of the uterus and most women often have no symptoms, while some may have painful periods and heavy bleeding. Uterine fibroids are not generally linked to increased risk of uterine cancer and it never develops into cancer.
Fibroids may be a size of a tiny seedling to that of a bulky mass which can enlarge the uterus and exert pressure on the bladder leading to a frequent urge to urinate. Women with fibroid uterus may experience pain during sex, lower back pain and sometimes may have one or several fibroids.
The cause of uterine fibroids is still unknown, however, a change in the gene that differ from those in normal uterine muscle cells, estrogen and progesterone hormonal imbalance, insulin growth factors and extracellular matrix which may cause cells to stick together and increase the fibroid size are some of the causative factors. Obesity, vitamin D deficiency and poor dietary habits are some of the risk factors. Also Read: Can An Unhealthy Lifestyle Cause Uterine Fibroids?
The symptoms of uterine fibroids depend upon the location, size and number of fibroids. Fibroids are classified by their location:
Intramural fibroids grow within the muscular uterine wall
Submucosal fibroids bulge into the uterine cavity
Subserosal fibroid grow outside the uterus
Some of the common signs and symptoms of uterine fibroids include;
Heavy menstrual flow
Backache and leg pains
Seek immediate medical care and intervention if you have heavy bleeding or pondering pelvic pain that appears suddenly or if you have the following symptoms:
Intense pelvic pain that doesn't settle
Too heavy, prolonged or painful periods
Spotting or bleeding between periods
Difficulty emptying bladder
In most of the cases, uterine fibroids are diagnosed incidentally when the gynaecologist perform a routine pelvic examination and may find out if there is an abnormality in the shape of the uterus, suggesting the presence of fibroids. Some of the procedures recommended by the gynaecologist include:
The doctor may do an ultrasound to get a clear image of the uterus to confirm and find out the location and size of the uterus.
If the women have excessive menstrual bleeding, then the doctor may suggest doing certain blood tests which include CBC and other blood tests to rule out thyroid and other disorder.
If the regular ultrasound does not confirm then further imaging tests are suggested which include
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI):
This test provides in detail the exact location, size of fibroids and identify different types of fibroids and help to decide on the treatment plan. An MRI is mostly done in women with a larger uterus or those nearing menopause.
It is also called a saline infusion sonogram where they use sterile saline to enlarge the uterine cavity, thus making it easier to get the images of submucosal fibroids and the uterus lining in women who are trying to conceive or who have heavy menstrual bleeding.
In this test, a dye is used to focus the uterine cavity and fallopian tubes on X-ray images. Generally, the doctor may recommend it if infertility is a concern. This test finds out if the fallopian tubes are open or are blocked and can even show the presence of any submucosal fibroids.
In this test, the doctor may insert a small, lighted telescope called a hysteroscope via the cervix into the uterus. Saline is injected into the uterus which expands the uterine cavity and allows the doctor to evaluate the walls of the uterus and the opening of the fallopian tubes.
Generally, most fibroids do not require any specific treatment unless there are visible symptoms. As post-menopause, the fibroid shrinks and does not cause any visible symptoms. The treatment plan for fibroid uterus are many, talk to your gynaecologist to know about the most suited treatment options based on the symptoms.
Hormonal therapy is the most recommended treatment option where hormones are prescribed to normalize the menstrual cycle, reduce the bleeding and ease the pelvic pain. Oral contraceptive is given to regulate the bleeding and anti-inflammatory drugs are also given to reduce the pain. Furthermore, multivitamin and iron supplements are also given to correct iron deficiency.
Noninvasive, invasive procedures include -- uterine artery embolization, radiofrequency ablation, and laparoscopic or robotic myomectomy, hysteroscopic myomectomy, endometrial ablation. Traditional surgery includes hysterectomy and abdominal myomectomy are recommended based on the severity of the condition.
Some of the best ways to reduce the risk of developing a fibroid includes maintaining optimal weight, choosing a well-balanced and nutritious diet including whole grain cereals, fruits, vegetables and good quality protein, avoiding processed and junk foods and being regular with exercises, i.e. at least 30 minutes of moderate activity. Also Read: Hormone Balancing Foods: Choose The Right Ones