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Uterine Fibroids: What you need to know

What causes uterine fibroids to grow?|Detection of fibroids and health impacts|Signs and Symptoms|Treatments
Uterine Fibroids: What you need to know

 

What causes uterine fibroids to grow?

Regular physical exams are necessary to monitor one’s health, especially in uncovering medical conditions.

For women, among the recommended health screenings are gynecological exams, which can help detect tissue mass called uterine fibroids. Uterine fibroids do not usually cause pain or other symptoms.

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths that usually appear in women ages 25 to 40. The location, size, and number of these growths vary from person to person.

These may be found inside or on the outer surface of the uterus. And they may develop as one growth or several differently-sized masses. Small ones, which may not even be visible, are common, but there are cases of larger growths.

What causes uterine fibroids to grow?

Doctors are still determining what causes uterine fibroids to grow, but genetic and hormonal changes are possible factors to its development. Researchers are also still trying to understand why these may sometimes grow and shrink. Uterine fibroids sometimes shrink after menopause due to changes in a woman’s hormone level.

Studies are ongoing to determine what causes uterine fibroids to grow and how to prevent these.

Among those with lower risk are those who have used oral contraceptives for at least a decade. Those who weigh less than 55 kilograms are less at risk. The same is true for those who have had multiple full-term pregnancies. Smokers are also found to be less prone to developing fibroids.

Detection of fibroids and health impacts

Uterine fibroids are usually discovered during physical exams.

A doctor checks the uterus by pressing lightly on the abdomen with one hand, while using two gloved fingers of the other hand to examine the vagina. A doctor may feel to see whether the uterus is irregularly shaped or larger than normal.

They may prescribe an abdominal or transvaginal ultrasound scan to confirm the presence of uterine fibroids.

Uterine Fibroids and pregnancy

As mentioned, uterine fibroids typically do not cause symptoms and do not harm one’s health. These masses also do not usually affect pregnancy. Some women have been able to carry a child to full term even with uterine fibroids.

During pregnancy, a fibroid’s size may grow due to increased blood flow to the uterus. But these can also become smaller or vanish completely afterwards.

There are cases where fibroids may cause discomfort and pain during pregnancy, leading to the need for treatment. Doctors may recommend cesarean delivery of the baby upon assessment of a fibroid.

Signs and Symptoms

Those who have no symptoms or experience only mild symptoms may choose to have their fibroids left untreated, as these do not cause cancer.

Some women with uterine fibroids may experience the following:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Menstrual periods lasting more than a week
  • Pelvic pressure or pain
  • Frequent urination
  • Difficulty emptying the bladder
  • Constipation
  • Backache
  • Leg pain

Treatments

If these symptoms do not immediately go away or worsen, consult your physician. The doctor can recommend treatments based on one’s health history, symptoms, and plans to have children.

Current medications can shrink uterine fibroids, but cannot eliminate them. These drugs affect hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle, helping to ease heavy menstrual bleeding and pelvic pressure.

How to Manage Severe Menstrual Pain and Heavy Bleeding

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are usually prescribed for pain relief. They can also help lessen menstrual flow. But they cannot reduce the size of a fibroid.

IUD (intrauterine device)

To ease heavy bleeding, a doctor may recommend an IUD (intrauterine device). Other treatments can be oral contraceptives and non-hormonal medication tranexamic acid. The first two options prevent pregnancy as well.

Doctors may also recommend vitamins and iron to address the nutrient loss from heavy bleeding.

Another option is gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists, which block estrogen and progesterone to mimic menopause conditions. This stops menstruation, resulting in a decrease in the size of the uterine fibroid.

This may be prescribed prior to a surgery to shrink uterine fibroids. However, this option is usually only prescribed for a maximum of 6 months as women report experiencing hot flashes.

Long-term use may also cause bone loss. Symptoms also come back once women stop taking GnRH agonists.

Myomectomy and Hysterectomy

There are also surgical procedures available, such as a myomectomy, which removes the fibroids, while leaving the uterus in place.

Hysterectomy, on the other hand, removes the uterus and sometimes the ovaries as well. The latter may be done vaginally or abdominally. Women who choose to undergo hysterectomies will no longer be able to bear children.

This is why it is only advised if the pain and bleeding caused by uterine fibroids is severe and no other treatment options are viable.

Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE)

Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE) is another treatment, which blocks the blood vessels to the fibroids, causing the growth to shrink. It is important to consult your physician regarding its impact on your fertility.

Making small, healthier lifestyle changes has shown to help alleviate some symptoms of uterine fibroids These include choosing healthier and organic foods over processed ones, reducing one’s sugar intake, regularly exercising, and keeping one’s blood pressure and stress levels downs.

Key Takeaways

More research can help us better understand what causes uterine fibroids to grow and how to prevent them. But being proactive in reducing your risk and protecting your health can make a big difference.

While uterine fibroids are most often benign, it is always best to seek medical advice. Your physician will be able to provide expert medical intervention on how to best manage your condition and offer treatment options, if necessary.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Uterine Fibroids: Symptoms and Causes https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/uterine-fibroids/symptoms-causes/syc-20354288 Accessed July 6, 2020

Uterine Fibroids http://www.cwcare.net/services/gynecological-challenges/uterine-fibroids Accessed July 6, 2020

Risk factors for uterine fibroids: reduced risk associated with oral contraceptives. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1341047/ Accessed July 6, 2020

Uterine Fibroids – Diagnosis https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/fibroids/diagnosis/ Accessed July 6, 2020

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Written by Mary Meysil Carreon Updated Aug 13, 2020
Medically reviewed by Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, M.D.
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